THE FALLEN AT FORT HOOD: John P. Gaffaney, 56, lobbied for 3 years to return to active duty

By Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 6, 2009; 5:55 PM

John P. Gaffaney already had retired from the Army as a major, already had won his 20-year service award in the San Diego county government as a supervisor in a program that helps elderly people through abuse and mental health crises.

But at 56, trained as a psychiatric nurse, he longed to return to active duty in the Army National Guard. For three years, a board kept rejecting him because he had a hearing problem, according to Ellen Schmeding, an administrator in the county agency for which he worked. Finally, she said, "he wore them down." He reported to Fort Hood to prepare for deployment on Nov. 1.

An ardent baseball fan with a wife and a grown son, Gaffaney "was very firm in his desire" to work in a war zone, Schmeding said, but understood the risks. Before he left, he had just taken a cherished vacation with his wife to Ireland and held a reunion with family and friends.

On Tuesday night, an Army chaplain told his wife he had been killed, Schmeding said. His colleagues are nursing "total disbelief," she said, "that something so random could occur to someone who was so important to us."

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