Retired Army Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford couldn’t attend Wednesday’s memorial service for soldiers gunned down by one of their own at Fort Hood.
But Lunsford, who survived the 2009 mass shooting that killed 13 and wounded nearly three dozen, said his mind and heart are with the victims and their relatives.
“As soldiers, we always had a motto: Leave no soldier behind,” he said. “It was true then and it’s true now.
“I want to give encouragement to them,” the North Carolina man said. “Don’t give up. You might feel like it … but don’t. You’re not out there by yourself. We are just a phone call away.”
On Nov. 5, 2009, Lunsford was at the Fort Hood center where soldiers preparing for deployment were being processed.
When the shooting started, he has said, he tried to hide but was shot in the face. After collapsing in a pool of blood, he pretended he was dead. But when he realized “dead men don’t sweat,” he tried to flee — and was shot six more times.
Last year, a military jury determined that a former Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was guilty of the shootings and should be executed.
Lunsford lost sight in his left eye and has had half a dozen surgeries, including facial reconstruction. One bullet remains lodged in his back.
He retired from the Army for medical reasons but is still among those seeking combat-related healthcare and benefits because the shooting is classified as workplace violence rather than terrorism.
His focus is now on the latest victims.
“My heart goes out to the survivors and the families of the fallen,” Lunsford said. “Their lives were just stolen from them.
“Even with the survivors, their lives will forever be altered because of what happened last week.”
And he said he wants to help any way he can.
“I don’t want the same things that were told to us to be told to them,” he said. “I don’t want them to be promised things they won’t get.
“In the close future, we may come down there to offer support to families of both categories if they want it and share different things they can do to lessen the blow … and [help] bounce back.”
Lunsford said he realized that another shooting was always possible at Fort Hood or another base.
But when he heard the news last week, it was devastating.
“We cannot control things that happen,” he said. “What we can control is how we handle what happens.”