Page 2 of 2   <      

Military experts discuss the attack at Fort Hood


Retired U.S. Army captain; coordinator of the Campaign for Healthy Homecoming at Survivor Corps

War is violent, of course. In Iraq's "triangle of death" in 2006, I stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost my arm and my leg. That kind of violence is easy for people to grasp. But how do families and our nation comprehend what happened at Fort Hood?

My wife, like me an Army captain, serves as an occupational therapist. Her job is to rehabilitate the injured, physically and mentally.

Friends ask me if I worry that she will deploy. I used to say, no, not at all. She's in the medical corps, it's an entirely different job. It's much safer.

But after the tragedy at Fort Hood, and the May shooting at the Baghdad combat stress unit, it's clear that no matter your role in the military, we all struggle with war's effects.

Lots of people confided in Dr. Hasan, and as a caregiver his job included the high doses of trauma which probably led him to a very dark place. He never went to Iraq, but the war came to him.


Board member of the Fort Hood Support Network, which operates the Under the Hood outreach center in Killeen, Tex.

No matter what the reason for the tragedy at Fort Hood, the attention paid to the base should shine light on the Army's inadequate policies regarding multiple deployments and the treatment of emotionally bereft soldiers.

Fort Hood soldiers, like others in America, have been devastated by repeated deployments. At Under the Hood, we see soldiers every day who are suffering from the emotional and psychological effects of their war experiences who feel isolated and abused by a system that seems concerned only about how soon and how often they can send them back for more. One Iraq veteran suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder: His days are a blur thanks to all the medications he is prescribed. Another soldier, pending his unit's deployment to Afghanistan, lost control and checked himself into a civilian psychiatric unit so that he would not harm himself or others. There are countless others who silently follow orders and try to stay out of trouble, all the while asking themselves whether these wars are worth the sacrifice. They need to know that there are many people who care, that they do have options and that they are not alone.


Retired Army colonel; former diplomat

Much is being made of the stress placed on the troops at Fort Hood who faced multiple deployments abroad. But the accumulated stress to military medical personnel is also tremendous: Soldiers who have returned from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan can be shattered physically and emotionally, and those who help them also suffer. With eight years of war, the stress on all levels of military personnel, their families and those who help them exceeds the current systems in place to support them.

Maj. Hasan's work may or may not have contributed to this tragedy. But the fact remains that we need to pay more attention to the caregivers -- not only those who support combat soldiers, but those who support departing and returning soldiers, too.

<       2

© 2009 The Washington Post Company