After the massacre: Fort Hood survivors, victims’ families still fighting for benefits

Published: Thursday, November 07, 2019 @ 5:45 PM

Ten years have passed since the deadliest mass shooting on an American military base.

Ten years have passed since the deadliest mass shooting on an American military base.

The Nov. 5, 2009, massacre at the Army post in Fort Hood, Texas, took 13 lives and wounded 33 others.

Among those there were soldiers from the Miami Valley area.

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They and their families are still fighting for medical benefits and honors they believe they deserve and for Congress to reverse what they consider the “ultimate act of betrayal.”

Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Berry was on his way home from Afghanistan to Cincinnati when he called his dad on Nov. 4, 2009.

“He sounded like he won the lottery,” said Howard Berry. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard him in my entire life more excited.”

The next day, Sgt. Berry had to go to the Soldier Readiness Processing Complex at Fort Hood.

Col. Kathy Platoni, a psychologist from Centerville, was also there preparing to deploy to Afghanistan with her Army Reserve unit.

All of the soldiers were unarmed.

“At 1:34 p.m., I heard a civilian screaming, ‘They’re shooting. They’re shooting in the other building,’” Col. Platoni said.

She ran toward the shooting and witnesses a bloodbath.

“Five of my friends were carrying Capt. John Gaffaney and I could see that he had been shot,” she said.

Sgt. Berry was in the building next door and sprang into action.

“He instructed the other people in the room to take cover, make sure the doors were secured and told them to stay away from the windows,” his father said.

Meanwhile, the lack of medical supplies meant his friends couldn’t save Capt. Gaffaney.

“Capt. Gaffaney died on my knees and I watched the light go out of his eyes,” said Col. Platoni.

When Sgt. Berry heard gunfire hitting his building, he dove over a desk and separated his shoulder.

“It changed him forever and he was never the same person,” said Howard Berry.

The man behind the massacre was Major Nidal Hasan, an American-born Army psychiatrist. 

“He stood up on a table and yelled, ‘Allahu Akbar,’” Col. Platoni said. “And he just fired in a fan-like motion, continuously reloading many times with extended magazines to kill as many American soldiers as he could.”

Those who survived say the aftermath has been grossly mishandled.

This biggest injustice — in their view — is continuing to label the Fort Hood shooting as workplace violence.

“Which is the ultimate betrayal for those who were there and witnessed this carnage,” said Col. Platoni.

During Hasan’s trial in 2013, he admitted shooting soldiers to protect Taliban leaders in Afghanistan from the U.S. military.

He was convicted and sentenced to death.

That same year, Howard Berry went to Washington and got 225 members of Congress to sign House Resolution 3111.

“It was called the Fort Hood Heroes Act,” he said. “It told the truth.”

The bill would declare the Fort Hood shooting a “terrorist attack” and declare Hasan a “traitor and enemy of the U.S.”

It would also gran benefits to the wounded — many of whom had to pay their own expenses.

But Congress never voted on the bill.

Col. Platoni is now retired from the Army Reserve, but she’s still fighting those affected by Fort Hood.

She wears heroes bracelets as a way to immortalize her friends who lost their lives.

“It has the names of the soldiers from my unit who were killed that day,” she said.

She never takes them off.

Every Fort Hood soldier was given the Meritorious Service Medal.

The Army later awarded Purple Hearts to the wounded and families of the dead.

“To me, this is unfinished business,” said Howard Berry.

His son took his own life in 2013 — one of seven suicides in the wake of Fort Hood.

Though he wasn’t shot in the massacre, his father is still trying to get a Purple Heart for him, believing the injuries he sustained that day led to his death.

“All I’ve asked for is make the award and amend his grave marker and I’ll go away,” Howard Berry said.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was a  co-sponsor of the Fort Hood Heroes Act, which was never voted on by the Senate or House of Representatives.

He told the I-Team that he would personally look into if the bill could be resurrected and that he still supports the measure.

Howard Berry is upset with what he says is inaction on the part of both Democrats and Republicans.

He hopes that one day the bill will pass, allowing him to give the Purple Heart to his 9-year-old granddaughter, so that she knows her dad was a hero.