On November 5, 2009, at Fort Hood, Texas, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan bowed his head in prayer, yelled “Allahu Akbar” twice, and began firing at unarmed American soldiers departing for Afghanistan or returning from abroad. One of the first soldiers Hasan shot was Sgt. Shawn Manning, who served two tours of duty in Iraq.
“I thought it might be a drill but then I looked down at my chest and I knew it wasn’t,” Manning told reporters. The wounded soldier tried to take cover but “when I went to the ground, he aimed at me and he shot me another five times.”
Hasan shot Manning once in the chest, three times in the abdomen, once in the leg and once in the foot. One bullet went through his lung, another pierced his liver and another missed his heart by centimeters. “I should be dead,” Manning believed, but he survived. That same day at Fort Hood, Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford noticed that Maj. Hasan carried a pistol that was not military issue, and fitted with special laser sights.
“The red laser went across my line of sight. I blinked,” Lunsford recalled in 2019. “He discharged the weapon, the first round went in above my left eye. So the impact caused me to spin around.” Lunsford played dead as Maj. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who proclaimed himself a “Soldier of Allah,” targeted other soldiers.
“He was walking and shooting at the same time,” Sgt. Lunsford recalled. “It wasn’t a rapid fire that he was doing. It was a methodical, slow fire, because he was counting his rounds. And I can hear the shell casings hitting the floor.”
Hasan was firing into a crowd when, as Sgt. Lunsford recalled, “my co-worker Dr. Michael Cahill came at him with a chair, that’s when he killed Dr. Cahill.” Maj. Hasan then targeted Lunsford “and that’s when I took my first shot to the head. I spun around and hit the floor, and started crawling behind the desk, and he ran up on me and shot me in my back.” After taking seven shots, Sgt. Lunsford still managed to get fellow soldiers outside the building.
Also present at Fort Hood that day was Army Reserve Captain Dorothy “Dorrie” Carskadon, a graduate of St. Mary’s College and veteran of Desert Storm and Desert Shield. In 2006, Carskardon enlisted in the Army Reserve to counsel troops suffering from PTSD. She was assigned to the 467th Combat Stress Detachment Unit and slated for duty in Afghanistan.
As Maj. Hasan targeted soldiers, Capt. Carskadon dropped to the floor and crawled over to Pvt. Francheska Velez, who was pregnant. Hasan had shot the pregnant soldier right through her abdomen. As Carskadon later testified, “She just kept saying she was hit in the stomach, crying ‘My baby, my baby!’”
When Carskardon tried to stand up, Hasan shot her multiple times in the stomach, right hip and right leg, and the side of her head. Other soldiers braved the line of fire to rescue the wounded captain, who survived. So did Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, who was close enough to hear Maj. Hasan shout “Allahu Akbar.”
“I didn’t realize what was happening,” Ziegler recalled in 2019. “Then he turned around 180 degrees and started shooting.” Hasan targeted Ziegler’s face and fired. The bullet broke through bone and shattered. Ziegler crawled to escape but lost consciousness. When he awoke, the soldier of Allah stood over him and fired three more times.
“There was just rage on his face,” Zeigler recalled. “He had been working up to that point for years. So, he was really focused.” Sgt. Zeigler sustained a gunshot wound to his right temporal lobe, and three other wounds to his shoulder, arm and hip.
In the space of 10 minutes, Maj. Hasan fired 241 rounds, killing 13 American soldiers and support personnel –14 counting the unborn child of Pvt. Velez – and wounding more than 30 others. After taking two bullets in the back from Hasan, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Royal saw the shooter move toward a nearby theater, site of a college graduation for troops.
“I ran to try to get to them before he got there,” Royal later testified. “I managed to get there to tell them to lock the door.” With Hasan’s automatic pistol amply supplied, and a .357 magnum revolver in reserve, the jihadist could have claimed many more victims.
“Fort Hood, Texas, that day was a combat zone,” Alonzo Lunsford recalled ten years later. “It was a terrorist that was in our uniform.” The 11/5 veteran has it right.
Military bosses knew Hasan was an unprofessional psychiatrist yet lowered standards and deemed him fit to counsel troops. Officers knew the soldier of Allah was a partisan of Osama bin Laden, yet saw no danger in his presence at Fort Hood. The FBI knew Hasan was communicating with terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, yet dropped the case against him and did nothing to prevent a massacre of U.S. troops on U.S. soil.
Hasan’s victims included African Americans such as Royal and Lunsford, Hispanics such as Pvt. Velez, and Asians such as Pfc. Kham See Xiong. Even so, there was no suggestion of a hate crime or even “gun violence.”
For the Obama administration the mass murder was only “workplace violence,” not terrorism or combat. That was the administration’s strategy to deny the victims the medals and treatment they deserved.
“We don’t get passes the way Major Hasan got passes,” Lunsford told the New York Times. “Each one of us has gotten a raw deal somewhere down the line.”
Lunsford sought a brief audience with President Obama but in 2014 “he refused to meet us” and “didn’t come see me in the hospital.” In 2015 the administration finally acknowledged that Fort Hood was a terrorist attack and the victims got the medals they deserved. Lunsford attributes the delay to “political correctness,” and “the lack of patriotism by some of our elected officials.”
Nidal Hasan’s terrorist attack left Lunsford blind in one eye, suffering from PTSD, severe depression, and mobility issues. The 11/5 veteran avoids large crowds and remains on the look-out for dangerous situations.
Sgt. Patrick Zeigler lost 20 percent of his brain, leaving his left hand limp and barely usable. The left side of his body was slow to heal and those limbs broke out in open sores that lingered for weeks. He sustained these wounds at a military base in his own country, and “the deeper anger that’s involved with all of it is still there below the surface.”
Shawn Manning still carries a bullet in his back. Capt. Carskadon prefers to remember not the shooter but “the heroics of the day.” Those heroes include Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, 55, the highest ranking soldier to die at Fort Hood that day.
When shots rang out, Warman forced an Army sergeant to the floor and out of the line of fire. He survived, but before Warman could escape, Hasan shot her in the abdomen. On November 19, 2019, an Army publication said Lt. Col. Warman “was killed as part of the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting incident.”
According to the notice at Arlington National Cemetery, “Lt. Col. Warman did not lose her life to enemy fire. Instead, she was one of 13 people murdered at Fort Hood, allegedly at the hands of fellow U.S. Army Officer Major Nidal Hasan.” (emphasis added)
From the time of his arrest in 2009 until 2013, Hasan kept his rank of major and received $278,000 in salary. Sentenced to death in 2013, Hasan remains on death row at Fort Leavenworth, cheering on terrorists and proclaiming “we have won!” after Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. A future commander-in-chief, a person worthy of the office, should straighten this out.
Nidal Hasan wore an American uniform but was really a soldier of Allah. So Lt. Col. Warman and the 13 others did lose their lives to enemy fire. A future commander-in-chief should have the enemy combatant duly executed and proclaim the terrorist massacre the “Battle of Fort Hood.”
A future commander-in-chief should rename the base after one of the victims – Fort Warman has a nice ring to it – and give the survivors all the respect and honor they deserve. On Veteran’s Day 2022, and every day moving forward, it’s all about memory against forgetting.