Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ft. Hood, Texas

After my first job as a vet ended, I worked for a while as a civilian contractor at the Ft. Hood Veterinary Treatment Facility.  After 14 months of being overworked and underpaid, this job was a respite.  The clinic saw pets owned by military families.  We offered basic preventative and outpatient care only.  I got to do lots of spays and neuters on the animals adopted from their shelter.  Occasionally I saw a few of the only remaining cavalry horses, kept at Ft Hood for ceremonies.  We started at 8:30 and ended at 3:30.

It gave me a deep perspective on military life, working with the people in the Army at the VTF.  They really give up so much of their personal life to serve.  Most of the decisions about their lives are made by the Army.  I saw the dynamic between enlisted and officers.  I saw how it wasn't just the soldier in the army, it was the whole family.  I saw how quickly these people bonded to each other, since they all shared the same military lifestyle, and no one stayed at any one post for too long.

I met people from all over the United States, plunked down at this huge facility between the plains and the hill country in Texas.  It did seem that small towns were over-represented.  These small town folk had lived in places like Germany, Hawaii, and Korea.

This was the time was between the Gulf War and the Iraq War.  It was peacetime, but the Gulf War was still in short-term memory, and these soldiers knew the dangers of their jobs.  There were lots of helicopter pilots and tank drivers.

Ft Hood is really huge - bigger than some counties in Texas, perfect for maneuvers and war games.  It was so big it was one of the few military bases you could enter without going through a mandatory check point, although I did have a military ID and badge.

After a few years, the nice captain in charge of the Veterinary Treatment Facility left, and her replacement was simply awful.  I was ready for a more challenging job, and a good opportunity came up in Austin where we had moved.  I was sad to say goodbye, but it was time, and a lot of my friends were already gone anyway.

I was thinking of these people as I drove home today, hearing about the mass shooting that happened this afternoon.  If I had been working at the VTF today, I probably would have been held there in the "lock down." I know these soldiers are under so much stress, but I can't fathom how one would turn on his comrades, especially one who is supposed to help them with this kind of stress.  The military life was not for me, but I have a lot of respect for those who chose it.  I am crying inside for them today.


Anonymous said...

Good post, Jenn. This is a very sad day for Fort Hood.
Love, M

Emily said...

I thought about your past job there, too, when I heard about the shooting. It's just so sad, so senseless.