James Rominger has been deployed to Germany, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, and served in the Army for more than 30 years. He says soldiers are prepared for the worst when serving overseas, but they do not expect to be attacked at home.
“It’s incomprehensible that things like this could happen at a place that you feel like should be the safest place in the world,” Rominger, a former senior command sergeant major, said.
Spc. Ivan Lopez opened fire April 2 at Fort Hood, killing three fellow soldiers and injuring 16 more before turning the gun on himself. Fort Hood is also the site of a mass shooting in 2009 carried about by former Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people and injured more than 30 others.
Rominger, who has lived in Killeen for 41 years, gathered with a group of veterans at a Shipley Do-Nut location in Killeen the day after last Wednesday’s shooting. The veterans swapped stories and reflected on the shooting over coffee and doughnuts. Being in a war is “hard to take,” Rominger said, so veterans often bond together “when horrible events take place.”
“It’s just unbelievable that (soldiers) go off and fight in these terrible countries and come back here and worse things happen to them,” Rominger said.
Last Wednesday’s events were “very, very terrible,” Rominger said. When a shooting happens, the community rallies around its soldiers, veterans and civilians, he said.
The communities of Copperas Cove, Temple, Killeen and Fort Hood are “very close”, and will work hard to do nice things for soldiers after “evil events” like this happen, Rominger said.
Phone calls from friends, family and fellow veterans flooded in from California, Missouri, Korea, Tennessee and Georgia after the shooting to make sure Rominger was okay.
Rominger remembers where he was when he heard about the first shooting at Fort Hood in 2009. Moments like that stick in one’s mind forever, he said.
“I was at home cleaning my car,” Rominger said. “I was at home yesterday (when I heard about the recent Fort Hood shooting).”
Soldiers often go through counseling upon arriving back in the United States to help them deal with the traumatic aftereffect of war, Rominger said,
“It’s rough, ya know, because some people can turn it off, and some can’t,” said Edward H. Dominguez, a former infantryman in Vietnam. “To me, it’s rough, especially when you come back and all of a sudden you’re supposed to turn (those feelings) off.”
Arriving home from a tour overseas can be hard on soldiers mentally and physically, Dominguez said.
“It affects different people in different ways,” Rominger said. “ It’s terrible, ya know, war is terrible and the things you see are just terrible.”