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Mental health concerns take top priority

Updated

By Hailey Persinger

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD – A week after the shooting that left 13 dead and 38 wounded, Col. (promotable) John Rossi said military officials are assessing the mental health of soldiers who were wounded last Thursday and any others affected by the tragedy.

"This is probably one of the things we are more concerned about is capturing where they are," the deputy commander of fires said during a press conference Wednesday. "We could be at the eye of the storm. It might take some time for these problems to manifest themselves."

While some deployments are currently being reviewed for potential delay, Rossi said Fort Hood is doing its best to return to a state of normalcy.

As officials assess soldier readiness for deployment and the Fort Hood community continues to heal, Rossi said the two things soldiers and their families need now are "leadership and friendship" – leadership on the part of soldiers to take care of other soldiers, and friendship from the surrounding community that has already demonstrated a commendable level of support and respect.

Rossi also asked that families and "battle buddies" of soldiers look for signs of emotional and mental distress as Fort Hood returns to the status quo.

"Let's find it from within," he said. "We are focused on the well being of the wounded. This is that important that it's handled one person at a time."

As FBI and military officials investigate suspected gunman Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, soldiers and members of the community continue to ask their own questions.

When a reporter asked first responder 1st Sgt. James McLeod of the 1st Combat Stress Control Battalion what it felt like for one of his own to turn on him, McLeod said, "I cannot really say the perpetrator was one of our own. Soldiers do not do this to each other."

McLeod's battalion is scheduled to deploy before the end of this year. Despite the emotional week, he said his 43 soldiers are in "great spirits."

"Everybody still wants to push forward," he said.

Spc. Garry Cole, also of the 1st Combat Stress Control Battalion, echoed McLeod's message that Fort Hood soldiers are strong, resilient and ready to continue their mission.

"You go through trying times," he said. "You've got to get back up. … This is our job and sometimes you've just got to push through."

Fort Hood officials are expected to release more information about the ongoing investigation into last week's shooting at noon today.

Contact Hailey Persinger at haileyp@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568.

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