Ft. Hood shooting hits close to home for local military community

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News 12 at 6 o' clock/ April 3, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- While it didn't happen here, the shooting at Fort Hood still has a lot of people at Fort Gordon concerned. We're learning the soldier who opened fire, Ivan Lopez was deployed to Iraq, but didn't see combat.

Investigators said the Army Specialist had behavioral health and mental health issues. The shooting hits close to home for a lot of military vets in Augusta, like Jeanette Thompson.

"When you're overseas you depend on one another. I got you, you got me," Thompson explains. "Then to come home and have that happen in such close quarters, it's very scary."

Images of Wednesday's shooting at Ft. Hood took her back to 1995. "I was stationed at Fort Bragg 82nd Airborne," she said. "I was actually in the formation when the guy opened fire."

Watching the scene unfold on television felt like deja vu for her. She says, "It was almost like not again, but I was not surprised."

She's out of the military now, thanks to an IED explosion that took the use of her legs. She also suffers from PTSD, something that took her a while to admit.

"It was denial at first. I thought, nothing is wrong with me. That's what you're taught as a soldier, mission first. Keep pushing, but as time went on, I found myself alone and really in some dark places," she said.

Daniel Smith has PTSD as well. He says, "It takes a warrior to say, 'You know, I've got a problem."

He worked as an engineer with the National Guard, diffusing bombs in Iraq. He says, "I got wounded in May 2006 Got hit by a roadside bomb and ended up breaking my back in two places and ended up with a traumatic brain injury."

The news from Ft. Hood hit him hard since the shooting happened in a Warrior Transition Unit, designed to help soldiers heal and transition back to life in the real world.

Smith and Thompson both think this tragedy is a wake up call and a reminder that mental issues in the military need to be taken seriously.

Smith says, "It can progress and get to a point where it's beyond your control, and that's when you're in trouble."

Thompson agrees, "If you're not told how to deal with that you're going to break."

There are a lot of options available if you need help:

Augusta Warrior Project: (706) 951-7506

Aiken Warrior Project: (706) 951-7506

Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline through the VA 1-800-273-8255

Contact the Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 (text 838255)

A free suicide prevention app called “Operation Reach Out” is for service members who may be depressed, suffering from PTSD or having suicidal thoughts as well as concerned family and friends. Search for "Operation Reach Out" it in the App Store on your smartphone.

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