In reaction to the fatal shooting at Fort Hood, Texas Wednesday, Congressional officials from across our region are offering their thoughts on the incident that claimed the lives of three military personnel.
The shooting at the Texas military base claimed the lives of four, including the gunman, a U.S. soldier. Sixteen were left injured. It was the second shooting at Fort Hood in five years. Thursday, a moment of silence was held on the floor of the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for the victims.
Western Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Richard Neal…
“There was a moment of silence, and when something of this magnitude, the killings that took place at Fort Hood occur, not only is there a moment of silence, but the entire delegation from that specific state – in this instance Texas – they call attention to the issue on the floor and the delegation assembles, and then House responds by standing and offering a moment of silence,” said Neal.
Reflecting on the incident carried out by alleged shooter Ivan Lopez at the largest military base in the country, Neal said beyond precautionary steps already in place, it’s difficult to guard against such actions when mental health issues are involved.
“I think that we’re all, in a free society, vulnerable to the individual who has mental health challenges that allow him or her in a very crowded area to pick up a weapon and to inflict the kind of anguish that was inflicted in Fort Hood,’ said Neal.
Bill Owens, a Democrat from northern New York, said it’s too early to tell what or if any Congressional action will be taken, but said he’s focused on ensuring help is available to personnel on U.S. military bases.
“We have not had a full investigation yet, so I think we need to go through that process, and at some point in time we’ll know whether or not this will require Congressional hearings,” said Owens. “What it clearly points out is that there is an ongoing need for mental health professional at military installations. Interestingly enough this is a conversation that I had with three Surgeon Generals yesterday at an appropriation hearing yesterday where I asked a question about this. And so I think what we really need to focus on is to make sure this doesn’t happen again, and I think the only way is to make sure you’re adequately staffed with mental health professionals.”
New York Republican Chris Gibson said he and his wife Mary Jo were both deeply saddened by the shooting event. The Army Colonel who spent 29 years in the military said he understands the challenges of military life and those facing military families.
Gibson said the incident also underscores the importance of supporting mental health programs. He said one of the greatest steps is to make sure community peer-to-peer programs among veterans and active service members are made available.
“As a commander, so many of the systemic programs do make a positive difference, but the most important aspect of a program is a peer-to-peer dimension so that if a service member or family member gets into crisis that they have a friend who will be there for them to get them through that period crisis so that the longer-term systemic programs can make a difference,” said Gibson.
Injured in the shooting was Major Patrick Miller, of Allegany County, New York. In a statement, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “I join the nation in mourning the loss of those Americans who demonstrated great patriotism in serving their country.” The governor offered his “thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery to the injured victims and their families.”