There's just not much to say about the tragic news yesterday -
twelve 13 dead and 30 injured as a result of a "lone gunman," now identified as an Army major. MAJ Nidal Hasan was a psychiatrist who had graduated from Virginia Tech in 1997 and spent six years at Walter Reed Army Medical Clinic before moving to Fort Hood. He was not a happy man.
In an interview, his aunt, Noel Hasan of Falls Church, said he had endured name-calling and harassment about his Muslim faith for years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and had sought for several years to be discharged from the military.
"I know what that is like," she said. "Some people can take it, and some cannot. He had listened to all of that, and he wanted out of the military, and they would not let him leave even after he offered to repay" for his medical training.
He had been affected by the physical and mental injuries he saw while working as a psychiatrist at Walter Reed for nearly eight years, according to his aunt. "He must have snapped," Noel Hasan said. "They ignored him. It was not hard to know when he was upset. He was not a fighter, even as a child and young man. But when he became upset, his face turns red." She said Hasan had consulted with an attorney about getting out of the service.
On the rare occasions when he spoke of his work in any detail, the aunt said, Hasan told her of soldiers wracked by what they had seen. One patient had suffered burns to his face so intense "that his face had nearly melted," she said. "He told us how upsetting that was to him."
It's clear that this was not a simple case of "Vietnam Vet" syndrome. He was a prior enlisted soldier who got a commission through ROTC, and was promoted to major last year. Hasan had not deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, but he was faced with the aftermath of that conflict on a very personal basis. In a big organization like the Army, and on a huge and busy base like Fort Hood, it's clear that his colleagues and other people who probably saw his behavior worsen didn't see the opportunity to intervene. With big organizations, sometimes the system fails the individuals who need the most help. It's a horrible situation, but this is what war can lead to - the injuries aren't limited to the battlefield. Thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims at Fort Hood.