The Victims of Fort Hood

Part of being the family member of a soldier is the knowledge that when your loved one deploys overseas, you may never see them whole again. Some soldiers come back without visible wounds but with shattered minds. Some return with bodies wrecked by the savage machinery of war. Some don't come back at all.

It is a risk that soldiers are willing to take in order to serve and protect their nation and a risk that the families also begrudgingly accept. That doesn't make it any easier when the message is delivered that changes their world forever.

One of the more brief but powerful scenes at the beginning of 1998's Saving Private Ryan is when Mrs. Ryan sees a government car slowly approaching her home. She walks out onto her front porch, only to slowly collapse into sobs when she realizes that the unexpected arrival heralds the death of her sons. There are no words in that scene. Some feelings are simply beyond words.

On Thursday afternoon, family members of real soldiers experienced the crushing sense of loss and isolation when they learned that their loved ones were inexplicably cut down on base.

Not in Iraq or Afghanistan, but in Texas.

Such things should not happen.

Now that the initial confusion has passed, we know that 12 soldiers were killed yesterday and 30 people were wounded. They were shot by Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a fellow soldier at Fort Hood. Hasan was a psychiatrist scheduled to deploy to Iraq at the end of November. It would have been his first overseas deployment. Ironically, Hasan specialized in treating traumatic stress. He was wounded by a responding civilian police officer and is in custody.

The knee-jerk response of many to seeing the shooter's Arabic name was to assume this was a terrorist attack. Impulsive or not, facts now suggest that Hasan's Islamic faith was indeed a motivating factor in the killings. That supposition seems backed by claims he shouted "Allahu Akbar!" before he began his rampage.

According to an officer who served with him at Walter Reed Hospital, Hasan spoke approvingly of the shooting of Army recruiters this past summer by a Muslim convert in Little Rock, Arkansas. Authorities also investigated Hasan as long as six months ago for internet postings discussing suicide bombings and other attacks, though they have not yet determined definitively if he was the author of those posts. One of those posts was a blog entry that deified suicide bombers as being similar to soldiers who throw themselves on hand grenades in order to save the lives of their fellow soldiers.