Wednesday was a mixed bag for Major Nidal Hasan…
The Army psychiatrist was sentenced to death for the 2009 shooting rampage at Ft. Hood. He managed to fire 146 times, kill 13 and wound 32 others – including an Olathe girl – completing the worst mass shooting in U.S. Military history.
At the end of the shooting Hassan himself was wounded and left a paraplegic. Small consolation, but hey, it’s something.
Hasan heard the unanimous decision handed down by 13 senior officers. It took less than 2 hours to reach the verdict – most likely made before they left their jury seats – but they had to make it look good and deliberate at least a little.
Hasan currently sits in the gate area of the Ft Hood airport awaiting the first available flight to Ft. Leavenworth.
Aren’t we lucky?
On one hand, he gets his dream come true; death as a martyr. In his belief system, as the needle goes in, he goes out on the express train to heaven screaming “Allahu akbar”; God is great, to his highest reward, 72 miscellaneous virgins in the afterlife.
You have to find some humor in the fact that he’s doing this as a paraplegic. Tough luck.
But giving Hasan his dirt nap won’t be an overnight process.
“If he really wants the death penalty, the appeals process won’t let it happen for a very long time,” said Joseph Gutheinz, a Texas attorney, United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. “The military is going to want to do everything at its own pace. They’re not going to want to let the system kill him, even if that’s what he wants.”
No active-duty service member has been executed since 1961. Hasan may never be executed, but he’ll join 5 other death row customers on the base when his flight arrives.
The biggest surprise of all?
With Hasan’s death sentence comes the end of the military pay gravy train. That’s right; he’s been getting paid all this time. How much, you ask? He’s cashed in $278,000 since the shootings plus a promotion.
Had Hasan been a military civilian, his pay would have ended seven days after the incident.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, his shooting victims have an equally hard to understand problem. They are fighting to get benefits and care associated with being wounded in combat because the Army refuses to classify the Ft. Hood victims as “combat related” or a “terrorist attack.”
Why’s that matter?
Short of that designation, the shooting victims are not given combat-related pay, are not eligible for Purple Heart retirement or medical benefits given to other soldiers wounded in war or even during the 911 attack.
Retired Army Specialist Logan Burnett, a reservist who was about to be deployed to Iraq, was shot three times. “I honestly thought I was going to die in that building,” said Burnett. “Just blood everywhere and then the thought of — that’s my blood everywhere.”
Burnett, who nearly died, has had more than a dozen surgeries since the shooting, and says post-traumatic stress still keeps him up at night. But it wasn’t a “terrorist attack” or “combat wound” so Burnett and the other Fort Hood victims are missing out on thousands of dollars of potential benefits and pay every year.
The shooter admits to being Muslim, admits wanting to kill even more than he did, screams “Allahu akbar” while shooting, but it’s not a terror attack?
Don’t you love our Government?
“You take three rounds and lose five good friends and watch seven other people get killed in front of you. Do you have another term that we can classify that as?” asks Burnett.
The Army has categorized the shooting as a case of “workplace violence.”
“Sickens me. Absolutely sickens me. Workplace violence? I don’t even know if I have the words to say,” adds Burnett.
“There have been times when my wife and I cannot afford groceries. We cannot afford gas in our car,” Burnett says. “Literally, times where we ate Ramen noodles for weeks on end. This (that Hasan is still earning a paycheck) makes me sick to my stomach.”
Burnett has since retired and moved to Arkansas to live with family and joined other Fort Hood victims in a lawsuit against the Army demanding the benefits they believe they’ve been denied.
“I refuse to continue letting Nidal Hasan win. And I leave the “Major” part out, because even though, unfortunately, he’s still being paid better than I am, he doesn’t deserve that rank,” Burnett says.
Take a moment and give this some thought.
If you’ve never written a letter to your Congressmen, this would be a good time to start, as I have. Just because the President thinks he’s brought an end to terrorism, just because he can’t bring himself to call it a terrorist act, doesn’t mean we have to be equally complacent.