Before I met my fiancé, my knowledge of the military included what I had learned from a textbook, limited insight from my grandfather, a retired World War II veteran, and media portrayal. I am ashamed to admit that I knew little more than the different branches.
When I met Dane, I suddenly had firsthand insight from an active duty soldier. Suddenly, my life was directly impacted by decisions the military made and I felt an almost-instant tie to Army families nationwide. If nothing else, it's true what they say about military communities -- they are tighter and more supportive than anything I have ever encountered.
My phone lit up on April 2 with a CNN alert that there was an active shooter at Fort Hood, an Army installation in Texas. My heart sank as I raced to flip on a television channel, thinking only of all the friends we have stationed at Fort Hood, not to mention the thousands of other people who call that base home.
As more information comes out about the shooter and the victims, I can't help but think there are lessons to be learned from this tragedy.
Unfathomable doesn't seem adequate enough to describe the pain the families of the victims must feel, and heartbroken doesn't seem adequate enough to describe the mentality of the shooter's family. I ache for these people whose lives will never be the same again.
As quickly as I have these thoughts, I would be remiss in not mentioning that I'm left questioning why these tragic events keep happening -- these horrible, devastating events that leave us speechless and with nothing but tears?
My heart goes out to the victims' families; I can't even imagine what they must be going through. I also feel for the shooter's wife and young daughter who are not only grieving, but also facing the public with the weight of their husband/father's crimes.
It's very easy to focus solely on the shooter and all the pain he caused. Admittedly, I'm asking myself why more is not being done for America's soldiers who suffer from psychiatric imbalances and mental health issues. In 2010, 4,000 soldiers per month received mental health counseling at Fort Hood -- a number impossible for Army doctors to keep up with and one, I can only assume, has increased as OEF wages on.
It is incredibly easy to presume Specialist Ivan Lopez was a monster based on his actions and death. That being considered, he was also someone's son, husband and father, and for the rest of their lives, that family will have to live with being defined by one day.
So often when we suffer, we feel alone or as if ours is the most insurmountable pain there is, but our fellow man also suffers; we are not separate, but rather bound by paralleled sameness.
Through my own experiences with tragedy, I have learned that from some of our darkest days there comes light. Life is short and meant to be cherished, not materially, but with those we love and care about. While the victims and families face incredibly trying times and obstacles in the days and months to come, I have no doubt the population of Fort Hood will band together and overcome this tragedy. You are all Army Strong.