“I’m the daddy.”
“I am the daddy,” he said again as he strode into the large group instruction room at the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) facility at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The speaker was a strapping African American Army major, wearing a flight suit, and about to teach a class on leadership to AMEDD officer basic students, several hundred of us.
“And you all are my children,” he continued.
The major explained that as a leader in the United States Army one of your primary duties was to “care for your soldiers.” The foundation of Army teamwork is the buddy team, you and one other soldier, always aware of each other’s status and state of mind.
The larger picture was that from the command point of view, commanders have ultimate responsibility for their troops. This is a sacred duty, and one that deserved the analogy presented by the major, that while in command he looked after his troops as if they were his own children.
Imagine the frustration – probably beyond comprehension if it’s not you – of a commander, or a parent, who is unable to properly care for or protect their troops or children, not because they don’t want to, or don’t have the means at their disposal, but because of political protocols manifest as anti-gun laws on military bases.
The newest active shooter incident at Fort Hood, Texas, where four are dead and 16 wounded, should renew our efforts to tell Congress to pass H.R. 3199, the Safe Military Bases Act, introduced by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) in September 2013. The bill was in response to the Washington Navy Yard shooting which took the lives of 12 Department of Defense personnel on Sept. 13, and the first Fort Hood shooting on Nov. 5, 2009, when 13 lives were taken.
Said Stockman, “The Safe Military Bases Act would allow trained soldiers on bases to carry weapons in case of a terrorist attack, to prevent further tragedies like Fort Hood and Navy Yard from happening again.”
He added that the sites are especially “vulnerable” targets for terrorists.
A nation at war cannot afford to leave its most valuable asset, its soldiers, unprotected. Even in peacetime there should be better security for those who might fall victim to a rogue shooter intent on revenge or terror. The world we live in today is a dangerous one, and to turn one’s attention away from obvious risk is negligent at best, and at worst immoral.
Soldiers are trained in the safe care and use of firearms, and in a combat zone carry their weapons and ammunition wherever they go. Doing so on military bases would be a no-brainer if practical and caring commanders were allowed to make that call.
In an active shooter situation, seconds matter, and it takes minutes for armed law enforcement to arrive on the scene, often too late to prevent an atrocity. And make no mistake, what happened twice now at Fort Hood and at the Washington Navy Yard were not mere tragedies. Far beyond sad accidents, they were deliberate acts that were predictable and preventable. Therefore, those ultimately responsible for the health, safety and welfare of those killed and injured are negligent.
Barack Hussein Obama is the Commander in Chief of all military forces of the United States, and therefore bears full and undeniable responsibility for the newest atrocity.
He failed to properly protect and defend our protectors, not just once, but many times, and not just here on U.S. soil. He clearly does not see himself as “the daddy.” He, his wife and two daughters enjoy around the clock armed security with the Secret Service, and rightly so, but how much less valuable are the men and women who wrote us all a blank check for everything up to and including their lives, that he would ignore incidents of violence against them when they are most vulnerable?
Until or unless all Islamists are dead, or no longer have the means or will to kill us, we must be vigilant and use all means necessary to defend and protect ourselves. That means the passage of H.R. 3199 as at least a start.
Now let’s talk about the shooter’s reported condition prior to the shooting. As facts become available we are learning that the shooter, Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, was being evaluated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and treated for “depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances.”
Secretary of the Army John McHugh stated that Lopez was taking “a number of drugs,” including Ambien to help treat his symptoms, and that the special was seeing a military psychologist.
Lopez drove a truck in Iraq in 2011 and was not reported to have been involved with any combat in that tour. Lopez had a previous tour in Iraq, in 2008, but sources did not elaborate on any details from that deployment. Fort Hood base commander, Lt. Gen. Mike Milly said that Lopez had recently complained of symptoms relating to traumatic brain injury (TBI), but did not elaborate.
Founder and president of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation, Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, states on her website that TBI is the “hallmark” injury of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that only 36 percent of the estimated 400,000-plus soldiers affected get treatment for TBI at Veterans Administration medical facilities, although all are eligible.
I spoke with Dr. Gordon on the phone regarding the recent incident with Spc. Lopez, and she reminded me that TBI is a “brain hurt,” not a “mind hurt,” and that treating the physical damage of TBI with psychotropic drugs only makes the situation worse.
We have a duty to protect those who are vulnerable to attack, but we also have an obligation to take care of those who protect us.
Spc. Lopez was hurting, and in Dr. Gordon’s opinion probably “fell through the cracks” of the military medical system, which will never be an excuse for what he did, but when soldiers complain of symptoms associated with service-related injuries, they need to be properly diagnosed and then treated. The practice of throwing drugs at potential PTSD patients and TBI sufferers must end. Dr. Gordon and her colleagues need your help to continue the fight for the proper diagnosis and treatment of nearly half a million returning veterans from the War on Terror.
Please contact your congressional representatives and let them know you want H.R. 3199 passed NOW, and that you want them to do everything they can to support the proper diagnosis and care of those in the military who suffer from TBI and PTS/PTSD. We all have a responsibility to defend and care for those who defend our freedom and liberty.
NOTE: It was important to Dr. Gordon to tell me that she didn’t want her comments on TBI to be misconstrued as promoting allowing soldiers to carry weapons on military bases.
I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter @mjgranger1