Reports of Wednesday night’s Fort Hood shooting that left four dead and 16 wounded garnered mixed reactions from local residents, but it was a situation, some said, that brought up questions about the way the U.S. deals with mental health issues.
“When there’s a shooting, whether it’s someone who goes in a theater and starts shooting people or goes in a high school, (people) always tend to look at the guns,”
said retired Lt. Gen. Dave Palmer, a Belton resident and former brigade commander at Fort Hood. “But it’s usually always a mental problem.”
Palmer said Fort Hood remains a safe place, especially when its crime rate is compared to cities of similar size.
Former Maj. Nidal Hasan’s 2009 shooting spree was unusual, Palmer said, and he hoped the media would not sensationalize this recent event.
“If the news media could do some good, it would be to shine a bright flashlight, a search light, on how we handle people with mental, medical psychiatric problems in our society,” he said.
At Under the Hood Cafe in downtown Killeen on Thursday, Malachi Muncy said he was concerned with the mental health issue that was unfolding, too. The cafe is a veteran-led outreach center that provides “GI” rights education to soldiers and their families as well as wellness programs.
Muncy said the debate surrounding mental health care — if coverage and services have improved for troops or the public, if there is effective treatments available — should be put aside.
“It’s clear whatever’s been done, there needs to be more. ... It should constantly be re-evaluated because it’s clear that there have been shortcomings,” he said.
The other side of the issue is the increasingly negative rhetoric surrounding combat veterans or soldiers with mental health issues who manage their conditions successfully, he said.
“I read stories about veterans not being able to find employment because employers view them as a loose cannon,” Muncy said.
Killeen resident Bobby Krei is a combat veteran of the war in Iraq and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He is currently part of a study called Operation Valor run by the Department of Veterans Affairs to try and address the problem.
Even with the study, however, Krei said he did not think researchers would make enough progress.
“In this current war, we’ve had way more survival rates, but there comes a back side to that: there’s amputations, pain and PTSD that soldiers have to deal with for the rest of their lives,” he said.
After hearing Fort Hood shooter Spc. Ivan Lopez was an Iraq War veteran and was going through the diagnosis process for PTSD, Krei said his heart went out to the families of shooting victims.
“They suffered a trauma that they have to deal with the rest of their lives,” he said. “It’s almost like it’s causing a continual cycle.”
Harker Heights Mayor Rob Robinson and Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin said both cities are concerned about their residents, many of whom are actively involved in the military at Fort Hood.
“I think we are reacting the same way we reacted in 2009, with the Luby’s shooting and when any soldier dies in combat,” Corbin said. “We reach out, we offer our condolences and we pray for families. That’s what our community is all about.”
Robinson said Harker Heights stands ready to assist Fort Hood or address any need requested.
Copperas Cove Mayor John Hull could not be reached for comment.
A community prayer vigil will be at 7 p.m. today at New Hope Seventh-day Adventist Church in Killeen in support of soldiers and families. Professional counselors will be available upon request.