President Obama is scheduled to travel to Fort Hood Wednesday to honor the three people killed in the recent shooting there, but a survivor of the 2009 Fort Hood massacre has asked that the President take a few minutes out to keep a promise he made the last time a gunman opened fire at the Army base.
“As you may know, the President and high-ranking members of the military promised me, my family and other Fort Hood terror attack survivors that the federal government would ‘make them whole,’” Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford (Ret.) wrote in a letter to the White House today. “After more than four and one-half years, however, the government has yet to make good on this promise.”
Lunsford was shot seven times when Army psychiatrist Maj. Nadal Hasan opened fire on soldiers about to deploy to Afghanistan in November 2009. Thirteen people were killed in the attack, which Nadal said in his trial was “in defense of others” – in his case, Hasan said he was defending the Taliban.
But despite Hasan’s admitted motive, and revelations that he had been in contact with high-level al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, the Department of Defense has refused to classify the 2009 incident as an act of “international terrorism” – a distinction that a lawsuit filed by the survivors says has denied them not only Purple Hearts for combat-related injuries but additional medical and financial benefits.
As seen in an ABC News investigation in February 2013, the Fort Hood police officer who eventually stopped Hasan, Kimberly Munley, was so fed up with the government’s treatment of the survivors that she said she felt Obama had “betrayed” her.
Reed Rubinstein, an attorney representing the survivors in the lawsuit against the government, told ABC News Tuesday that his clients have a “tremendous amounts of empathy for the survivors and victims” of the most recent attack. In that case, authorities say last week Spc. Ivan Lopez, a soldier with “mental health issues” killed three people after an altercation at the Army base before turning the gun on himself.
As tragic as last week’s shooting was, Rubinstein said he felt it impossible not to draw distinctions between that shooting – which he said appeared to be “classic” workplace violence – and the 2009 attack.
“Just the contrast will point out really the underlying fallacy of what the government has tried to tell people… the idea that the  Fort Hood shooting was workplace violence is a lie,” he said. “They know it’s a lie. Everyone knows it’s a lie.”
Authorities are still investigating the cause of last week’s attack, but military officials have said it appears Lopez’s rampage began after a possible altercation with other soldiers on the base. The father of one of Lopez’s victims who survived the shooting, Sgt. Jonathan Westbrook, told ABC News his son said Lopez had become enraged after an employee wouldn’t give him an leave of absence form. Lopez left the building and returned with a gun, Westbrook said.
In the 2009 case, Hasan admitted in court that he planned his shooting spree in order to defend the Taliban, to which the American troops posed an immediate danger. In his communications with Awlaki, Hasan had asked if it was justified in Islam to kill American soldiers. Hasan reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or “Good is great,” during the attack and called himself a “mujahideen,” or holy warrior, during his trial.