In base's town, lots of anger over 'evil' act

As investigations into the the Nov. 5 massacre at the Fort Hood, Tex. army base ensue, the military community deals with the realities of violence at home and abroad.
By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 7, 2009

KILLEEN, TEX. -- They started lowering the flags to half-mast here before the Army had even finished counting the dead.

Home to Fort Hood, Killeen is a tough Texas town, and soldiers and civilians here expressed all the emotions felt by the rest of the country -- shock, sadness, anger -- but more so. It was raw, and it was personal.

At the hard-scrabble apartment complex where Maj. Nidal M. Hasan lived in Number 9, the $350-a-month one-bedroom on the second floor, some of his neighbors were sorry to learn that the 39-year-old Army psychiatrist had survived Thursday's rampage that left 13 dead and 38 wounded.

Inside the cozy, dark and smoky American Legion Post 573, Richard Beach was sipping an afternoon beer Friday when he said, "We all have a lot of anger. Anger because the base is supposed to be the safe zone, you know, and here is a guy, a doctor, and he shoots our people?"

The commander of the American Legion Post, Kervin Bradford, said "people hope he lives long enough to tell us why he did it. Then he can die."

Bradford said, "I am not a racist, but I say send them all back to a Muslim country." Hasan, who was born in the United States, is a devout Muslim.

Out on West Veterans Memorial Boulevard at the edge of town, there's a row of honky tonks and strip clubs. At a place called Wild Times, across the highway from the Booze Box, the management put up a sign urging passersby to pray for the victims and their families.

At the airport, families wept and said goodbye to departing soldiers as others welcomed troops home with cheers. Irene Baker, who was on hand to greet her brother Ed as he returned home after months in Afghanistan, said the attack at Fort Hood made her feel "like the world was going crazy, like it was just filled with killing. Here. Over there. Like everywhere."

Baker said she knew she would calm down when her family was back together for the weekend.

In Killeen, with its strip malls of pawn shops, fast-food outlets and gun stores, locals live for the soldiers' paydays on the 1st and 15th of the month. Some said they were surprised something like this hadn't happened sooner, as the troops show the strain of multiple deployments to dangerous countries where they are not much liked.

"Just after the shooting, that's what the soldiers were saying, how we all have just been waiting for somebody to snap. It's not that big of surprise, is it?" said Adam Davis, who owns Zombie Ink Tattoos across the street from Fort Hood.

Davis said the troops get religious tattoos before they deploy -- the face of Christ or hands folded in prayer. When they come home, they get tattoos memorializing dead friends. "The wars have been going on a long time," Davis said. He said the base is filled with stressed-out soldiers, "a lot of them addicted to painkillers."

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