GATESVILLE — Melissa Stroop has seen victim services from both sides. A survivor of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, she shared her insights as keynote speaker at the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week observance here Thursday.
“Prior to joining the Army, I worked in victims services for the Arlington Police Department,” Stroop said. “On Nov. 5, 2009, I was on the other side.”
Now a social worker with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Stroop was a captain in the 467th Combat Stress Control Detachment when Nidal Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009. “I was on the front row,” she said. “One of my soldiers saved my life after she was shot.”
A witness to the killing of her “battle buddy,” Staff Sgt. Amy Krueger, Stroop testified at Hasan’s trial.
Struggling against a brisk wind and strong emotions, Stroop spoke to a crowd of about 100 on the courthouse lawn.
“Thirty days after the shooting, those of us who were not wounded by bullets were deployed to Afghanistan,” she said.
She credits Mary Jo Speaker, a victim-witness coordinator with the Justice Department with helping her get through “five long years” since the shooting.
“Mary Jo was there every step of the way,” she said. “Her efforts to keep us informed kept us in control. Without a victims advocate, we would be left in the dark.”
The ceremony was organized by Coryell County Crime Victims Services Coordinator Brandy Johnson and Survivors for Justice, a victims’ rights support group started by five women — Miranda Waters, Malissa Casas, Ashley Cutts, Clara Yagalla and Linda Snively — who were crime victims.
“These women deserve to be honored. They stood up, dusted themselves off and fought back,” Johnson said. “They are the faces of the group, but they are not the only members. Everyone who becomes a victim is a member of the group.”
Waters and Casas are sisters whose mother, Paula Allen, was killed in a fire set by their stepfather. “When crime victims services took the case, it was like someone turned a light on in a very dark room,” Waters said.