11/5 and Still Alive

By some counts, 167,284 World War II veterans remain alive in 2022, but few are in any shape to appear at Veterans Day ceremonies. In similar style, Korean War veterans are now well into their 80s. 

Vietnam veterans, now into their 70s, fought well but never got the support or recognition they deserved. In that regard they are hardly alone. Consider the veterans of the Battle of Fort Hood, which occurred on November 5, 2009. That day, Sergeant Shawn Manning heard shots and wondered what was going on. 

“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.” 

Manning took a bullet in the chest, three in the abdomen, one in the leg, and one 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 said. But he survived. The shooter, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, should not have been there. 

Every person enlisting in the U.S. military must solemnly swear “that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” 

Hasan took that oath but openly proclaimed himself  “a soldier of Allah,” a jihadist, and more.  Commanding officers knew Hasan was a partisan of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, yet kept him in the ranks in the interest of “diversity,” supposedly a source of strength. 

Hasan was also an unprofessional psychiatrist, yet military bosses lowered standards and deemed him fit to counsel troops departing for duty overseas. The FBI knew Hasan was communicating with terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, yet dropped the case against him and did nothing to prevent his attack on U.S. troops on U.S. soil. 

On November 5, 2009, the soldier of Allah came fully prepared. Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford noted that Hasan carried a pistol that was not military issue, and it was fitted with 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 Hasan targeted other soldiers. 

“He was walking and shooting at the same time,” 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 Lunsford recalled, “my co-worker Dr. Michael Cahill came at him with a chair, that’s when he killed Dr. Cahill.” 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 rounds, 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 operations 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 Hasan targeted soldiers, Carskadon dropped to the floor and crawled over to Private Francheska Velez, who was pregnant. Hasan had shot the 21-year-old right through her abdomen. As Carskadon later testified, “She just kept saying she was hit in the stomach, crying ‘My baby, my baby!’

When Carskadon tried to stand up, Hasan shot her multiple times in the stomach, right hip and leg, and the side of her head. Other soldiers risked their lives to rescue the wounded captain, who survived. So did Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, who was close enough to hear 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 fired at Ziegler’s face and 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.” 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 Francheska 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 FN automatic pistol amply supplied, and a .357 magnum revolver in reserve, the soldier of Allah could have claimed many more victims.

“Fort Hood, Texas, that day was a combat zone,” Alonzo Lunsford recalled 10 years later. “It was a terrorist that was in our uniform.” The 11/5 veteran had it right, and like the others he was not prepared for the abuse he would face.

Hasan’s victims included African Americans such as Royal and Lunsford, Hispanics such as Velez, and Asians such as Pfc. Kham See Xiong. Though fully aware of that reality, commanding officers failed to see any possibility of a hate crime or even “gun violence.” For the Obama Administration, the mass murder of American troops was only “workplace violence,” not terrorism or combat. This was the administration’s strategy to deny the victims the medals and medical 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.” The administration in 2015 finally acknowledged that Fort Hood was a terrorist attack and the victims got their medals. Lunsford attributed 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 veteran avoids large crowds and remains on the lookout for dangerous situations.

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. The soldier sustained these wounds at a military base in his own country, and as he explains, “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, and for many others the pain of their betrayal lingers on. For her part, Capt. Carskadon prefers to remember not the shooter but “the heroics of the day.” Those heroes include Lt. Colonel Juanita Warman, 55, the highest ranking soldier to die at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009.

When shots rang out, Warman forced an Army sergeant to the floor and out of the line of fire. He survived, but before the officer could escape, Hasan shot her in the abdomen. On November 19, 2019, an Army publication reported that Lt. Col. Warman “was killed as part of the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting incident,” hardly the only shameful evasion.

“Lt. Col. Warman did not lose her life to enemy fire,” explains the notice at Arlington National Cemetery. “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)  As Alonzo Lunsford said, the major got passes.

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 to the point that he proclaimed “we have won!” after Joe Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. This is what happens under an addled poltroon who doesn’t know what century he’s in. A future commander-in-chief, capable of executing the office, should straighten it all out.

Nidal Hasan wore an American uniform but was really an ally of terrorists and the Taliban. So Lt. Col. Warman and the 13 others did lose their lives to enemy fire. A future commander-in-chief should proclaim the deadly 11/5 attack the “Battle of Fort Hood.” That commander also has to decide whether a soldier of Allah can take 14 American lives and keep his own. A brief consultation with the wounded veterans should settle it.

A future commander-in-chief should rename Fort Hood after one of the victims—Fort Warman has a nice ring to it—and give the brave survivors all the respect and honor they deserve. On Veterans Day 2022, and every day moving forward, it’s all about memory against forgetting.

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About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images