Accustomed to taking fire in a war zone, the combat veteran had suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder in a Nov. 5 shooting rampage at “home” — the Fort Hood military post in Texas.
As an emergency-room nurse wheeled him into a hallway filled with people, the soldier kept asking, “Is it secure? Is it secure? Please tell me it’s secure.”
Lt. Col. Les Maloney, a Church of Christ chaplain at Fort Hood, described the scene, which he witnessed while ministering to victims at Darnall Army Medical Center.
Maloney, an active-duty reservist, has seen the horrors of war. He served a tour in Iraq. But the grieving and psychological trauma connected with the Fort Hood shooting spree concern him even more.
“A lot of these soldiers have been deployed one or two times and have experienced being shot at — directly or indirectly — in Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Maloney, a member of the Western Hills Church of Christ in Temple, Texas.
“But they breathe a sigh of relief when they make it back ‘home,’ a blessing that many of their fellow soldiers who fall on the battlefield do not experience.”Just after 1:30 p.m. on a normal Thursday, that peace was shattered.
Authorities allege that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist,opened fire at a Fort Hood processing center, killing 13 people and wounding dozens more.
Maloney, a graduate of Lubbock Christian University and Harding University Graduate School of Religion, reported to the post emergency room about 1:45 p.m. and spent the rest of the day praying with patients.
“My chaplain assistant and I were able to pray for one soldier before he got on the helicopter to fly to Scott and White Hospital in Temple,” said Maloney, who preaches at a Fort Hood chapel.
“Another patient was worked on heroically by the ICU staff, but he passed away later that evening, becoming the 13th victim. His unit/battalion chaplain was there when he passed away and said a prayer (and) read a psalm not just for the soldier to rest in peace but for the benefit of the company commander and the first sergeant of the unit who were there watching helplessly as their soldier struggled to pull through.”
The next week, Maloney escorted a grieving family to a memorial service where President Barack Obama addressed thousands of shell-shocked soldiers. In another case, the chaplain introduced a family to the civilian doctor who worked to save their daughter.
To help those who witnessed the attack, Maloney and other chaplains launched group counseling sessions — Critical Incident Stress Management.
“In these sessions, a chaplain will work with 15 to 20 people, allowing everyone in the group to share what they saw or heard or smelled or felt,” Maloney explained. “It is a chance for the eyewitnesses or the other participants to debrief and continue the grieving process.”
In the tragedy’s aftermath, the religious background of Hasan — a Muslim — and the suspect’s possible terrorist ties have come under immense scrutiny.
According to The Associated Press, soldiers who witnessed the rampage reported that the gunman shouted “Allahu Akbar!” — an Arabic phrase for “God is great!” — before opening fire.
At a Fort Hood chapel the Sunday after the attack, Col. Frank Jackson prayed for Hasan and his family: “Lord, teach us to love and pray for those who rise up against us and pray for those who do us harm. We pray for Major Hasan, asking that you do the work that only you can do in his life.”In Maloney’s view, his colleague’s prayer was the right response for a Christian.
Maloney said he worries about Muslim friends who attend a nearby mosque.
“I fear a backlash against them and/or against the local mosque,” he said.
But what’s really needed, Maloney believes, is prayer:
• Prayers for victims’ family members, including Jennifer Hunt, who grew up at the Northridge Church of Christ in Shawnee, Okla. Her husband of only a few months — Spc. Jason Dean Hunt, 22 — was killed as he prepared for a second deployment to Iraq.
• Prayers for healing for combat veterans who were already struggling with post-traumatic stress, now compounded by the shooting in a place they thought was secure.• Prayers for political and military leaders investigating the tragic circumstances.
Maloney neglected to mention one person who could use our prayers.
May God shower blessings on him as he ministers to those in such desperate need of hope and healing.