In this Tuesday, June 4, 2013, retired Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford holds one of the bullets removed from his body after he was wounded in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage, at his home in Lillington, N.C. (Credit: AP)
If retired Army Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford could speak to President Obama before tonight's State of Union, he'd tell him that the seven bullets fired into his body by Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan not only physically disabled him but tore through his soul.
He would ask Obama why the promises he made more than five years ago to take care of the 32 survivors and the families of the 14 people killed, including an unborn child, have not been fulfilled. He would ask his commander-in-chief to stand up for truth and reclassify the shooting as a terrorist attack. He'd ask him to honor the men, women and families with Purple Hearts and compensation like those who were honored in the Pentagon terrorist attacks and Boston Marathon bombings.
Lunsford wants to know why the Army he voluntarily enlisted in and the country he is willing to die for abandoned him and the other victims after the fallout. Lunsford, along with the other survivors of Ft. Hood, recently shared his thoughts with TheBlaze for a special that will air on TheBlaze TV’s "For The Record" (February 12, 8:30 p.m. ET). He and others like him will share how they've endured since the shooting, their stories of survival and the pain of feeling abandoned by their own government.
But tonight -- in his Army dress uniform -- Lunsford will sit in silence. He will listen to the president in the Capitol chamber as an honored guest of Texas Rep. Roger Williams (R), who has long supported the fight of Ft. Hood victims to be compensated for what he and many others lawmakers believe was a deliberate terrorist attack.
"I would tell the president what an honor it is to meet him. But I want the president, the country to know we are here," Lunsford, whose 6-foot-9 stature will be hard to miss at the event, told TheBlaze as he made the long six-hour drive from his hometown in North Carolina to Washington D.C.
He didn't want to fly because driving always gives him time to think, he said.
"I'm wearing my uniform to represent honor, and for the distinction of the fallen on the 5th of November, 2009, at Ft. Hood," he added.
His large white great Pyrenees service dog Bomber, provided to him by K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit group out of Florida providing rescue dogs for wounded veterans with PTSD and other needs, will be at Lunsford's side tonight. And Lunsford's other "best friend and battle buddy," retired Army Sgt. George Overton -- who served as a nurse with 28th Combat Support Hospital -- will be with him as well.
Lunsford still remembers the day of the shooting with great detail. He was the man in charge of the Ft. Hood processing center where Hasan, who was preparing to head to Afghanistan, began screaming in Arabic "God Is Great" before deliberately hunting down unarmed U.S. service members and civilians.
Rep. Roger Williams invited Retired Army Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford to be his guest at the Jan. 28, 2014 State Of The Union address. Lunsford is one of 32 survivors from the Ft. Hood massacre that took place Nov. 5, 2009.
While visiting Washington D.C. earlier this month, Lunsford, who was rolling a bullet between his fingers that had been removed from his body during surgery, said he would not give up the fight. When asked about the bullet, he said he keeps it with him whereever he goes as a reminder that he survived for a reason and his faith in God will not let him give up.
"I would ask: 'Mr. President, why have you forgotten us?'" Lunsford said."Tonight I'll wear my uniform for my children, for those who have fallen in the war on terror and for all other service members to let the people of our nation and the enemy know that we were wounded but not dead. So that we will not be forgotten."
Rep. Williams, who has long fought to pass numerous pieces of legislation with Texas Republican John Carter, has found it difficult to understand why the Army or the White House will not award Purple Hearts. They also believe the government needs to provide compensation to the victims and designate Hasan's shooting as an act of terror.
Williams and Carter both told TheBlaze that they are committed to fighting for the victims in Congress and pushing for the passage of H.R. 3111, the Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act. Williams said Tuesday the legislation they're providing "would rightfully restore what has been disgracefully denied by the White House."
"These are men and women who voluntarily go into harm’s way in order to protect our freedom and liberty," Williams told TheBlaze. "They defend our flag, our Constitution, our way of life. They deserve the fullest support of their country, their Congress and their president. To deny them the benefits, awards, treatment and compensation they fought for by risking their lives is unspeakable, and the president should be ashamed...The war on terror is not over. When each new soldier, sailor, airman and marine makes their oath of enlistment or office, he or she must be confident that our nation’s leaders will honor our commitment to support them just as they honor their commitment to serve and protect us.”
Lunsford also hopes that the roughly 30 million people watching will, through his presence, not forget the victims or the terrorist attack that changed all their lives. He also hopes the victims are an inspiration for survival. Despite suffering traumatic brain injury, and other wounds, the father of two still finds time to coach basketball.
Hasan, 43, was sentenced to death in August. Lunsford, who testified at his hearing and helped sentence him, said he will not find closure until Hasan's shooting is changed to an act of terror. Hasan was eventually stripped of his pay and other Army benefits that he had continually received when he was in custody.
"You can't shake it," said Lunsford. "You can't shake the screams, the smell of blood, the absolute horror of that day. Hasan is a terrorist. I knew him personally then and worked with him several times before the shooting. I knew it in his eyes, as he was shooting me that he deliberately targeted us out of hate and as an act of war. This was not workplace violence - everyone seems to know that but the Army and White House."
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