Shot 7 times, county native to receive delayed Purple Heart

Lunsford shot seven times in ’09 Fort Hood shooting
Initially determined ‘workplace violence’

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

A Richmond County native wounded in the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, is reportedly set to be awarded a Purple Heart.

Fox News first reported that Secretary of the Army John McHugh reversed an earlier decision to determine what happened on Nov. 5, 2009, when Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hassan’s on-base shooting spree killed 13 soldiers and civilians and wounded more than 30 others, as workplace violence.

Photo by People Magazine Richmond County native Alonzo Lunsford was forced to retire from the Army with 22 years of service after being wounded in a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood.

Photo by People Magazine
Richmond County native Alonzo Lunsford was forced to retire from the Army with 22 years of service after being wounded in a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood.

The designation stymied survivors’ efforts, including those by Richmond Senior High School graduate Alonzo Lunsford, to collect benefits that come with receiving a Purple Heart, which has generally been reserved for those wounded in action within a theater of combat. However, Fox News reported that the Army determined the shooting could be considered an attack because the shooter “was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack.”

“The Purple Heart’s strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood,” McHugh said in a statement reported by Fox news. “Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe there is sufficient reason to allow these men and women to be awarded and recognized” with either the Purple Heart or, for civilians, the Defense of Freedom medal.

Lunsford was an Army medic who worked with the shooter at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center. He has been an outspoken critic of the president’s action, or inaction, regarding the incident. Lunsford also was rebuffed when he requested to meet with the president for a few minutes to hear directly from a survivor regarding the impact the shooting had on survivors. His request to meet with the president came as President Barack Obama was traveling to Fort Hood in April 2014 after a second shooter killed three.

In a brief rejection of Lunsford’s request, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said that the president determined he couldn’t meet with Lunsford after “consulting with the White House Counsel’s Office … the Departments of Justice and Defense (are) leading the government’s efforts to ensure the victims of the 2009 shooting receive the justice and benefits they deserve. Unfortunately, we are unable to meet your specific request for a meeting with the president …”

Lunsford told The Pee Dee Post he’s led to believe the benefits will be retroactive to the date of the shooting. He received a phone call from the Pentagon on Friday, shortly after being contacted by Fox News, to confirm the change in direction by Department of Defense officials.

The date and location of the Purple Heart presentation isn’t yet known, Lunsford said. Fort Hood and the White House are the two likely leading candidates, he said.

Lunsford said being a critic of the administration’s response since 2009 has been worth the effort.

“I’m a firm believer that a man who refuses to stand for something will fall for anything,” Lunsford said. “I’ve always been a fighter. I wasn’t going to take this laying down.”

Lunsford said the fuel to his fire was sparked when, recovering in a hospital bed, he saw Hassan’s face “plastered all over television” and then on the cover of Time magazine, “on the front … as if he’s a hero, and that just pissed me off. If we were to just be quiet … we’d still be waiting for this day.”

Lunsford acknowledged that “money doesn’t solve everything, but it makes it a whole lot easier” but noted the pain family members of those who didn’t survived must be going through all over gain.

“That medal is not going to bring their loved one back,” Lunsford said.

Lunsford said one of the prosecuting attorneys in the Fort Hood shooting, who now is stationed at Fort Bragg, said survivors would never get the Purple Heart.

“For me, with my belief in God, and my family upbringing and my strong family support, I’m able to get through,” Lunsford said.

That’s because Lunsford still has his freedom — and Hassan, sitting inside a cell at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., doesn’t.

“I’m injured, but I’m not dead,” Lunsford said. “I’m still kicking. Every night, I get to home home to my wife … and life goes on. This man is confined to a wheelchair in a cell where he can’t even bathe himself, and he will never feel the warmth of a woman’s body ever. Ever. He will never think, feel or smell freedom. Ever. All because of what somebody told him to do.”

Lunsford, 48, now lives in the Fayetteville area and is married with five children. In multiple interviews, Lunsford has said the shooting has left him blind in his left eye and half his intestines have been surgically removed. In addition, he has difficulty walking and has been diagnosed with PTSD.

He works as an athletic director at a charter middles school in Fayetteville and serves as coach for the varsity girls basketball team at a Fayetteville Christian school. He also coaches a semi-pro men’s basketball team.

Lunsford said he’s able to do what he does — fighting through the 2009 shooting and the ups and downs that have come along since — because of “Raider pride.”

First at Rockingham Junior High School and then at Richmond Senior High School, Lunsford was a three-sport standout in football, basketball and track. In sport, he said, one learns about intestinal fortitude — and whether you have it or you don’t.

“That pride sticks with you for the rest of your life,” Lunsford said. “Athletics play a very important part in a young future leader’s mindset. I stand true to the word of a student-athlete.”

A new mission

Lunsford continues to grow his roots. No longer a non-commissioner officer in the Army, he still helps lead and mentor young people. His newest role is an advocate to raise awareness for veteran suicide. Stop 22 notes that, every day, 22 or more veterans take their lives.

The campaign, Lunsford said, “is a full court press on this thing … t help give these service members the help that they need. I think, collectively, together, we can help these service members.”

 

 

 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, Military and Veterans, News

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  • notaverysmartman

    Long overdue!!! This is what happens when the government and politicians get involved, let the military run the military!!! God Bless you and thank you for your service!!!

  • mltex

    This delay was caused by the WH.

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