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. Heserved a tour in Iraq. But the grieving and psychological traumaconnected with the Fort Hood shooting spree concern him even more.
“A lot of these soldiers have been deployed one or two times and haveexperienced being shot at — directly or indirectly — in Iraq orAfghanistan,” said Maloney, a member of the Western Hills church inTemple, Texas.
“But they breathe a sigh of relief when they make itback ‘home,’ a blessing that many of their fellow soldiers who fall onthe 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 andwounding dozens more.
Maloney, a graduate of Lubbock Christian University and HardingUniversity Graduate School of Religion, reported to the post emergencyroom about 1:45 p.m. and spent the rest of the day praying withpatients.
“My chaplain assistant and I were able to pray for one soldier beforehe 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 hepassed away later that evening, becoming the 13th victim. Hisunit/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 forthe benefit of the company commander and the first sergeant of the unitwho were there watching helplessly as their soldier struggled to pullthrough.”
The next week, Maloney escorted a grieving family to a memorial servicewhere President Barack Obama addressed thousands of shell-shockedsoldiers. In another case, the chaplain introduced a family to thecivilian doctor who worked to save their daughter.
To help those who witnessed the attack, Maloney and other chaplainslaunched group counseling sessions — Critical Incident StressManagement.
“In these sessions, a chaplain will work with 15 to 20 people, allowingeveryone in the group to share what they saw or heard or smelled orfelt,” Maloney explained. “It is a chance for the eyewitnesses or theother participants to debrief and continue the grieving process.”
In the tragedy’s aftermath, the religious background of Hasan — aMuslim — and the suspect’s possible terrorist ties have come underimmense scrutiny.
According to The Associated Press, soldiers who witnessed the rampagereported 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 Jacksonprayed for Hasan and his family: “Lord, teach us to love and pray forthose who rise up against us and pray for those who do us harm. We prayfor Major Hasan, asking that you do the work that only you can do inhis 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, whogrew up at the Northridge church in Shawnee, Okla. Her husband of onlya few months — Spc. Jason Dean Hunt, 22 — was killed as he prepared fora second deployment to Iraq.
• Prayers for healing for combat veterans who were already strugglingwith post-traumatic stress, now compounded by the shooting in a placethey 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.