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When War Comes Home

In an eerie echo of a 2009 incident, Ft. Hood, Texas once again found itself on lockdown yesterday because of an active shooter situation. Four Army personnel, including the lone gunman, died and more than a dozen were injured.

Reports have indicated the shooter, Army Specialist Ivan Lopez, had a history of mental health issues. On Wednesday, Lopez entered a base building and opened fire. He continued onto another building and then died of a self-inflicted gunshot in a Ft. Hood parking lot. Since the shooting in 2009, military members were required to store weaponry at the base armory instead of carrying weapons on their person. Yesterday, Lopez violated that rule by bringing with him a privately-owned .45 caliber pistol.

Just five years ago, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people and injured more than 30 more at Ft. Hood. Hasan’s shooting, as he has openly admitted, was done to protect the Taliban. Military members preparing to tour in Afghanistan were targeted by Hasan, a much different notion than the seemingly random aiming by Lopez.

 

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Ft. Hood has experienced two mass shootings in five years

There is something very unsettling about a lone gunman anywhere. We’ve seen this story rewritten at malls and schools and places of worship. But it strikes me as particularly saddening that our military bases are unsafe. A solider shot another solider yesterday. That isn’t supposed to happen except in war, by opposing parties. A man who never saw a day of combat is now responsible for casualties on his home soil.

This incident, just like so many others, will undoubtedly stir up the discussion about mental health services in this country. It’s an old story, but this morning it had a new page and growing support for some sort of change, especially with veteran health programs. There are numerous programs already established for veterans, but still suicide rates are increasing and a lack of psychiatric screenings is far too evident.

When our heroes come home from a tour, it cannot be ignored that problems may exist in their minds. Is it always evident? No. But services and assistance to help them combat their negative thoughts must be deployed to the forefront.

But how did this happen again in the same place? There seems to be this “very strong evidence” notion that individuals who commit these acts have underlying and usually known mental health issues. The problem at Ft. Hood is there seems to be no clear method in determining who may pose a physical threat to themselves or to others. Therefore, situations such as Wednesday’s catch everyone off guard. Better treatment must be implemented to keep another Ft. Hood from occurring.

This is a war within itself. One we have to win.

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