Thursday, April 3, 2014

Yet another Fort Hood shooting… "April is the cruelest month"...

Yesterday, Bill came home in his uniform with a light sheen of sweat on his face.  As he told me about his day, he said the air conditioning was broken in the building where he works.  It won't be fixed until later today.  It's very warm in Texas right now and he gets really hot easily anyway, so I imagine work may be unpleasant until the air conditioning is repaired.

Bill stripped off his uniform and changed into street clothes.  Tomorrow, he has a phone interview with the company whose recruiter he met last week.  They are moving very fast.  If they decide they want him and offer him a job that interests him, things may be changing rapidly.  In the meantime, I found a few houses I wouldn't mind looking at if we stay here… and of course, the realtor noticed that I added them to my "favorites".  He contacted me… and I had to tell him we're still not ready to commit to house hunting.

As Bill was making dinner, I was watching the news and heard Scott Pelley say something about a shooting at Fort Hood.  I called down to Bill to ask him if he knew about it.  He didn't and came back upstairs to see what was going on.  By the time the details came out about the shooting, I noticed he had tears running down his cheeks.  I asked him if he was okay and he said it really upsets him when people in the military turn on each other.

The last time Fort Hood was shot up, it was November 2009. We lived in Georgia at that time and Bill was at the Pentagon on TDY.  I was at home, taking care of our sick beagle, Flea, who would die about two weeks later.  I remember the shock and dismay surrounding that shooting and how some of my liberal "friends" on the Internet blamed the Army for the fact that a Muslim Army officer-- a psychiatrist, no less-- went crazy and killed a bunch of people.  Major Hasan survived his personal jihad, is now paralyzed, and will be executed.

This time Fort Hood shooter was 34 year old Specialist Ivan Lopez.  He had been to Iraq and suffered from anxiety and depression.  With a .45 caliber handgun, he went into two buildings and wounded 16 people.  He killed three, then himself when he put the gun to his head and fired.

According to CNN, Lopez had a "number of mental health issues".  Obviously.  Some time ago, I wrote a post on this blog about mental health issues and how the military deals with them.  While the official rule is that servicemembers are to get help when they have problems with anxiety, depression, or PTSD, the reality is, a lot of them don't.  There are a lot of reasons why they don't.  Some of them are quite understandable.  For instance, my husband Bill had significant stress, anxiety, and depression when he was splitting from his ex wife.  He could have used some help from a mental health professional to deal with his stresses.  In a different person, he might have run amok on an Army post himself.  But he didn't get any help, other than chatting with me when I was a graduate student.  He had security clearances to think about.

I have a friend who serves in the Air Force and has significant "issues" stemming from her childhood.  She is quite functional, but still suffers from a lot of unprocessed anger from that time in her life.  One time, I gently suggested she seek help with those issues.  She said there was no way she could, since doing that would have a deleterious effect on her career.  Having been around military folks my whole life, I know what she says is true.  In fact, Bill has a former co-worker who lost his security clearances when he started taking Prozac.

I don't know what specific problems faced Ivan Lopez or what made him decide to go on a rampage yesterday.  It seems to me that April is the month for these things to happen.  Looking back on recent history, a whole lot of shootings seem to occur in the springtime, just as nature is renewing itself.  It seems almost counterintuitive.  According to CNN, Lopez was being treated for his mental health issues.  He had just arrived at Fort Hood in February with his wife and daughter and they had seemed like a "normal" couple.  Lopez served four months in Iraq in 2011 and, though he wasn't listed as injured, he claimed that he'd suffered a traumatic brain injury there.  At the time of his rampage, Lopez was being evaluated for PTSD.

Lopez used his own weapon to do his killing.  He used a .45 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol that he purchased soon after arriving in Killeen.  He broke the rules by bringing the unregistered weapon on Fort Hood.  He was taking a risk, since any vehicle that goes on a military installation is subject to search.  Texas has notoriously lax gun laws and I imagine that despite Lopez's mental health problems, purchasing the weapon was not difficult.  All of his victims were Army personnel.  His wife apparently had a clue that Lopez might go off the deep end.  She confided in a neighbor that she was very worried… and it turned out she was right to be so worried about her husband.  I feel badly for her.  She lost her husband and now has to live with what he's done.

Interestingly enough, it was a female police officer who confronted Lopez before he killed himself.  If I recall correctly, it was a female officer who shot and paralyzed Major Hasan, too.

Given this situation, maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing if Bill decided to go totally civilian.  Of course, people can freak out anywhere and April does seem to be the riskiest month of the year when it comes to mental health flare ups.      

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