The horrific, senseless shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others this past weekend shocked and saddened everyone. As bad as the situation was, early reports were worse. Many claimed Representative Giffords, a military spouse, had died. Thankfully, that was not the case. As I watched the news unfold, I heard something which made me cringe (5:25 in) – the suspect *may* have been an OEF veteran. As soon as I heard this, I knew exactly what was on its way. Speculation that PTSD and exposure to combat would be discussed ad nauseam as a trigger for this violence, and we’d see a parade of “experts” on all the television shows focusing on the negative aspects of military service. Veterans would be under the microscope. Service members who have gone rogue and committed unspeakable offenses would suddenly seem the rule and not the exception though in reality, it’s the other way around. I was not looking forward to round #4,854 of detached experts speak about mental health issues in the military. Shades of Abu Ghraib came to mind. Remember how a handful of despicable individuals tarnished the reputations of hundreds of thousands of honorable troops and made their jobs much more difficult?
Journalists, politicians and pundits are the first to tell us not to jump to conclusions and that initial reports are often wrong, but in the frenzy of big, developing news stories, many chose to report (or speculate on) unconfirmed bits of information, hence the inaccurate reports about who Jared Lee Loughner was. Later, when it was found that Lohener was not a veteran, I was relieved. Not only was he not a veteran, but the Army had rejected him for service. I looked at my husband and said, “Thank God he is not a veteran. And thank God the Army rejected him.” What he did was bad enough. Unthinkable, really. But can you imagine that nut with access to military grade weapons?
The military will not be scrutinized in this situation because there’s no connection to the suspect. I’m relieved that there’s no connection. Though PTS, PTSD and other stressors are indeed real problems, not everyone afflicted with these conditions commit atrocities. Far from it. Sometimes, a deranged nut is just a deranged nut. Shame on those who relayed unconfirmed reports that Loughner was a veteran, or who simply assumed that to be the case.
Representative Giffords was fortunate to receive first-class medical care, and here’s a military connection for which we can be proud.
Rhee, 49, chief of trauma at University Medical Center in Tucson, said his work in the Navy tending to injured soldiers and Marines and teaching the next generation of battlefield medical personnel unquestionably played a role in his ability to treat Giffords and direct care for the 10 other victims who began arriving in his unit Saturday morning.
“There’s no doubt,” he said. “I was in the Navy 24 years, and I trained to do nothing but battlefield casualty care. When I did go to Afghanistan and Iraq, I wasn’t in a hospital. I was in very forward surgical units, so I was very accustomed to working with very little gear and people and personnel, very little resources, with wounds that are very different than civilian injuries,” Rhee said Sunday. “Did it prepare me? I would say of course it did. And that makes it so that when we have a mass casualty of 11 people here, it’s really not as bad as it can get.”
Representative Giffords is the only person serving in Congress who is married to an active-duty service member. By all accounts, she’s doing very well and we continue to hope for the best. We wish her a full and speedy recovery. Captain Mark Kelly, her husband, has posted a message on the congresswoman’s website. As for the other victims and their families – you, too are in our thoughts and prayers.