As President Obama spoke of old "wounds” at Fort Hood this week, the White House declined a request from a survivor of the 2009 massacre there to meet with Obama for a few minutes so the veteran could explain face-to-face how he believes the government has mistreated and disrespected the victims of that attack.
Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford (ret.) was shot seven times in November 2009 when Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood, killing 13 people. Despite Hasan’s admission that he carried out the attack on behalf of the Taliban and revelations that he had been in contact with high-profile al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki, the Department of Defense has refused to classify the shooting as “terrorism,” which the survivors claim in lawsuit against the government has meant they’ve been denied Purple Hearts and combat-related benefits afforded to victims of other terrorist attacks.
“As you may know, the President and high-ranking members of the military promised me, my family and the other Fort Hood terror attack survivors that the federal government would 'make them whole.' After more than four and one-half years, however, the government has yet to make good on this promise,” Lunsford wrote to Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough a day before Obama's visit. “We believe that if the President could hear, first-hand, our plight and our mistreatment at the hands of his bureaucracy, that he would take the steps needed to set things right. Therefore, we ask for ten minutes of his time.”
The White House had announced days before that the President would be coming to Fort Hood this week to honor three people who were killed in another shooting earlier this month – this one carried out by an Army specialist with “mental health issues” who purportedly became enraged after an employee wouldn’t give him a leave of absence form.
“Part of what makes this so painful is that we’ve been here before,” Obama said at Fort Hood Wednesday, standing at a podium behind the boots, rifles and helmets of the three fallen, arranged in the same manner as 13 others in 2009. “This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago. Once more soldiers who survived foreign war zones were struck down here at home, where they’re supposed to be safe.”
Though he spoke of figurative wounds from 2009, Obama did not meet with Lunsford, who suffered actual wounds that day.
“After receiving your letter yesterday, and consulting with the White House Counsel’s office, we forwarded your letter to the Departments of Justice and Defense, who are leading the government’s efforts to ensure the victims of the 2009 shooting receive the justice and benefits they deserve,” McDonough said in a letter to Lunsford dated April 10, a copy of which was provided to ABC News by attorney Reed Rubinstein. “Unfortunately, we were unable to meet your specific request for a meeting with the President yesterday.”
Rubinstein, who represents Lunsford and other 2009 Fort Hood survivors in a pending lawsuit against the government, told ABC News earlier this week that the nature of the most recent shooting, and its contrast to the 2009 attack, shined a light on the “underlying fallacy of what the government has tried to tell people.”