KILLEEN, Texas -- Two Texas congressmen, one of whom represents the Ft. Hood area, on Saturday met with survivors of this week’s shooting on the base and later shared stories of heroism and sacrifice.
“Wednesday’s shooting brought the stress and danger of a combat zone right here to Ft. Hood,” said Rep. Roger Williams, adding that after meeting with soldiers he “was impressed with their stories of resilience and bravery.”
Rep. John Carter told how Maj. Patrick Miller, 32, of Allegany, N.Y., after hearing the “pop, pop, pop of gunfire,” took quick action to save his comrades.
“He realized he needed to get them inside his office,” Carter said, and the soldier did -- even as he was shot and bleeding.
Another soldier wounded in the attack said he was hoping to return to work soon and planned to attend Ranger school.
“They’re ready to get back to their unit,” said Carter, chairman of the homeland security appropriations subcommittee.
Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, 34, went on the shooting rampage Wednesday afternoon, killing three soldiers and injuring 16 others before turning the gun on himself. The soldiers killed were Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Michael Ferguson, 39; Staff Sgt. Carlos Alberto Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38; and Sgt. Timothy Wayne Owens, 37.
Carter, who represents the Ft. Hood area, spoke about the toll the shooting has taken on soldiers at a congressional hearing this week. On Saturday, he and Williams heard stories about the bravery of those who died, including Ferguson, of Mulberry, Fla., “whose courageous act of blocking a door with his body saved lives.”
The Republican congressmen viewed two of the sites where Lopez opened fire on fellow soldiers and where military investigators and police were still at work Saturday.
Carter said he was confident that the military investigation will not only reveal the facts of what happened but also help prevent another shooting at the base.
He said mass shooters often follow news of other attacks, and that the shooting at the base in 2009 by an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, set the stage for Lopez.
“Hasan planted the seed,” Carter said.
Hasan was tried last year at the base and sentenced to death for killing 13 and injuring more than 30.
The congressmen have sponsored legislation that would classify that attack as terrorism, with the requisite benefits and commendations for survivors. Survivors have so far been unsuccessful in their efforts to pass the legislation, and they have filed a lawsuit against the government.
Both congressmen said the latest shooting will lead to a review of military restrictions that prevent soldiers from carrying firearms at the base.
Williams also said military mental health outreach should be reviewed.
“We have to do a better job of reaching out to our men and women coming back from harm’s way,” he said.
All but six of those wounded Wednesday had been released from area hospitals by Saturday.
Sgt. Jonathan Westbrook, 32, of McComb, Miss., was shot and wounded in the attack, and relatives drove from Mississippi to see him Saturday.
Westbrook was in the building where Lopez first opened fire. Relatives were in awe Saturday that he survived after being shot at such close range.
“I think it’s miraculous,” his uncle, Harvey Westbrook, told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday when reached at home in Baton Rouge, La. “He was just lucky in the way the bullet hit him.”
Westbrook, who talks to his nephew daily by phone, said he has been released from the hospital and is expected to make a full physical recovery.
“He will be fine in time,” Westbrook said, but, “I don’t think you can watch people die and not be affected by it.”