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ATTACKED AT HOME
A Green Beret’s Survival Story of the Fort Hood Shooting
By Captain John Arroyo Jr.
ABOUT THE BOOK
This is the amazing story of 2nd Lt. John M. Arroyo, Jr., who, on April 2, 2014, was shot in the throat and neck by another soldier who then went on to kill four soldiers, including himself, and wound sixteen others.
It tells of John's journey from his childhood in Southern California to his time spent as a tattooed member of a violent street gang, and a hopeless teenage drug addict. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and ultimately became a Special Forces Green Beret and highly decorated officer after serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.
This story of the journey to the very edge of overwhelming darkness includes the story of his brave, supportive wife, Angel. Often overlooked, military spouses have a unique and powerful role in the lives of the U.S fighting forces.
Be inspired by this story as John uses his faith to protect himself and his fellow Special Forces "Operators" while deployed to the Middle-East and then relies on it to recover from the massive wounds he sustained after being shot at Fort Hood, Texas
On April 2, 2014, I was sickened at the thought of more soldiers being killed and wounded by one of their own who was wearing the same uniform.
After the phone call, I sat there thinking, “Is this going to be as bad as the first one that happened in 2009?” I knew from previously going to Fort Hood that active shooter training was something that was an ongoing exercise at the hospital.
One of the cases the staff talked about was Lieutenant John Arroyo’s, and they described his neck wound and the massive dam- age that had been done by the bullet. They also told me about some resources that had been in the right place at the right time for him. It just so happened that at the time, several ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors were training at the hospital, and they had completed a routine surgery. When the PA system announced “Incoming critically injured patients,” they immediately rushed to the emergency room. Also, an emergency room residency program was in place, and all of those personnel were there. So, we had the perfect types of teams in place to quickly respond to the situation. Having the right surgeon available when John was brought in, saved his life because he knew immediately what to do as John was bleeding out.
Walking down the wide corridor at Baylor Scott and White hospital, I was uneasy about seeing 2nd Lt. John Arroyo for the first time because I knew what kind of damage a large caliber gunshot wound can do to human flesh. I had seen it before in Kosovo and as an emergency room nurse! Having already been briefed on his condition earlier in the day at Darnall Army Hospital in Fort Hood, Texas, I knew that he had suffered a massive injury to his left carotid artery, larynx, and right shoulder from a .45 caliber bullet fired at almost point-blank range. It was a miracle that he was still alive after losing such a large amount of blood!
Gently knocking on John’s door to announce my presence, I opened it and was astonished to see him sitting up in his bed, trying to talk and holding a whiteboard! Looking at the faces of his family standing around the bed, I saw their hearts were broken, and their lives had been shattered. I choked up as I entered the room, met everyone, and went over and hugged John. Then I said, “We are going to do everything we can to help you heal, and there’s no limit to the resources we can offer. I would like to move you to San Antonio for your recovery.”
John awkwardly grinned at me and then wrote on the whiteboard, “Can I ride down there with you in your van?” And I just started laughing because that’s the way John was! I could tell that he was not going to let this incident defeat him. That’s when I realized that his faith and spirit was going to get him through this. Many people would simply have given up but not John; he was concerned about everybody else that had been involved in the shooting and how they were doing.
I had seen many soldiers with horrible injuries recover and go back on active duty because they didn’t want to leave the military. I knew that John had the same desire, and I was sure that he would fully recover. His will to live was so strong it was apparent that after being shot, he had thought, “Today is not my day to die!”
Several months later, John was notified that he was going to receive the “Soldiers Medal.” I was humbled and honored to be able to present it to him. During the attack, even though he was gravely injured and bleeding out, he had the presence of mind and resiliency to tell others about an active shooter in the medical brigade headquarters. His action that day saved many lives because others would have walked into the building and been killed by the shooter.
When somebody enters the military, they may or may not have come from a good home; however, very quickly, their brothers and sisters in uniform become closer to them than their actual family. A lot of John’s strengths came from his wife, Angel, and he would not have been able to recover without her loving care. Her dedication to him and her daily attendance at his bedside was inspirational for everyone that knew her.
Being part of the United States military requires strength of character and commitment of purpose. As John and Angel have journeyed through the aftermath of a horrific attack, they have shown they possess both qualities, which will bring healing to many of those going through similar tragedies. I believe Attacked at Home: A Green Beret’s Survival Story of the Fort Hood Shooting will become a shining beacon of light to show the path to recovery, health and restored hope for all who read it.
Major General Jimmie O. Keenan
U.S. Army (Ret.)
Endorsements for Attacked At Home
Standing by the front of my vehicle, I unexpectedly heard gunfire and instinctively ducked, thinking, “All of the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters have been cleared from the base, and ISIS is nowhere near us, so who could be shooting?” Then I remembered that I was at Fort Hood, Texas, and no longer in Afghanistan or Iraq. It was April 2, 2014.
I noticed an enlisted soldier sitting in a parked car fifteen feet away. I assumed he was trying to determine from which direction the gunshots were coming. Suddenly he raised a .45 caliber Smith & Wesson M&P pistol and fired it point-blank into my face. The bullet tore through my left jugular vein, shattered my voice box, entered my right shoulder, and lodged in my upper arm socket. With my left hand, I quickly grabbed my throat wound and squeezed hard to stop the flow of blood. My right arm was paralyzed and dangled limply by my side.
The moment I was shot, I froze in disbelief. I wasn’t sure what had just happened, I remember thinking, “Am I shot?” I didn’t feel any pain, but the impact felt as if I was hit in the chest with a baseball bat. However, instantly, my worst fears were confirmed when I saw massive amounts of bright red blood flowing through my fingers and down my chest. My first reaction was to get away. I stumbled back to my car and collapsed on the ground. Thoughts began running through my mind, “Is this it? After all of my combat tours in the Middle East, am I now dying?
What will happen to my wife, Angel, and the kids? I don’t think Angel can take any more loss after both of her parents have recently died.”All of a sudden, I heard a voice tell me, “Get up! Get up, or your wife will die!” The voice didn’t come from someone outside. With no urgency in its tone, it came from deep within me and was clear and sharp.
Slowly staggering upright, I stood and tried to cover my throat with my right hand, but realized my right arm wouldn’t move at all. I thought, “Maybe it was broken when I fell down on the parking lot pavement.” As I explain the events now, it might appear that I was taking my time, but my actions were happening in just seconds, not minutes. At that point, there was no one around me, and I knew I needed help fast. I began staggering toward my unit, hoping I would make it there before I passed out.
As I approached the front door of the First Medical Brigade headquarters, I saw a soldier walking toward me. I tried yelling for his help. But nothing came out of my mouth except massive amounts of blood. As the individual and I drew closer to each other on the wide sidewalk, something warned me about his demeanor, and I thought, “He’s walking very calmly but looking around frantically.” Then I realized it was the shooter! Ten feet directly in front of me, he stopped, looked about anxiously, not even acknowledging that I was standing there, turned, walked into the brigade headquarters, and began killing people.