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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gun attack ended military career

Hasan shooting victim George Stratton III, then 19, relaxes at his parents’ Post Falls home in 2010. (File)
By Alison Boggs and Mike Prager The Spokesman-Review

The father of a Post Falls soldier wounded when Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood in 2009 said his son has post-traumatic stress from the shooting that ended his military career and has left him unable to support himself.

On Nov. 5, 2009, George Stratton III was at Fort Hood to complete medical processing in preparation for a January deployment to Afghanistan. He was one of the 32 people wounded by Hasan’s bullets; Stratton was shot through his left shoulder, shattering his humerus bone. Among the 13 killed in the attack was Michael Grant Cahill, 62, a native of Spokane and graduate of Rogers High School and Eastern Washington University.

“We are still hurting,” said Cahill’s daughter, Keely Vanacker, who attended the sentencing. “But it does give us finality, and this chapter of our lives is over.”

As for Stratton, he saw two of his friends die that day. Months later, he watched his unit depart for Afghanistan without him.

He was reassigned, but after five months of physical therapy and counseling, Stratton quit out of concern he was placing too much of a burden on his unit, he said in 2010. He could have used a lot more help, said his father, George Stratton Jr.

“The military’s answer is just to drug him up,” his father said. “They had him so doped up, it’s what ruined him. You don’t take an 18-year-old and hand him a bunch of drugs and say, ‘Here, take care of yourself.’ He couldn’t do his job. They just set him up for failure.”

In December 2011, Stratton was honorably discharged from the Army.

Currently, though, PTSD has left him “unemployable. He’s a mess,” his father said. “He’s trying to get help through the VA, but that’s a big joke too. I’m not real happy with the military.”

George Stratton Jr. said his son, who is 22, has managed to secure just a 20 percent disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which gives him $233 a month.

“All of this is through no fault of his own,” Stratton’s father said. “He was going to be a lifer in the Army. He wanted to be Special Forces, and now look at him. What I sent them and what I got back was miles apart.”

Stratton said he originally wanted Hasan to receive the death penalty, but now feels it would have been a “far greater punishment to give him life” and “put him in a dungeon somewhere.” Stratton said his son is one of the numerous plaintiffs seeking compensation for the shootings through a civil lawsuit against the government.

Cahill, a civilian physician assistant at the processing center where the shootings occurred, attempted to stop Hasan by going after him with a chair.

He was later honored with a Secretary of the Army Award for Valor, which was presented to his wife, Joleen Cahill. The couple met at EWU.

Cahill had served in the Army National Guard, where he was trained as a physician assistant and retired as a chief warrant officer. He had worked for the VA in Portland and at small rural clinics during his career.

Rogers High School is planning to induct Cahill into its hall of fame next month, Vanacker said.

She praised the military justice system for being thorough in the prosecution, but said the country needs to do a better job of preventing “lone-wolf, homegrown terrorism” like the shooting that took her father’s life.

During the sentencing hearing this week, Jolene Cahill testified that much of the night she learned of her husband’s death is a blank, according to KHOU-TV.

“The shooting and his killing are not going to destroy my life and his children’s,” she testified. “(Hasan) is not going to win. I am in control.”