VA Suffers Losses, Offers Help at Fort Hood
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2009 In the midst of providing mental health services and other support to the Fort Hood, Texas, community following the recent shooting there, the Department of Veterans Affairs learned about its own losses from the violence.
Two VA employees, both serving on active duty with their Army Reserve units, were among the slain. A third VA health care worker on reserve duty was seriously wounded.
“Speaking for the entire VA family, I offer heartfelt condolences to the families of these dedicated VA employees,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. “They devoted their working lives to care for our veterans, and they died in uniform, preparing to safeguard our nation’s freedom.”
Russell G. Seager a 51-year old nurse practitioner at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee and a captain in the Army Reserve, was killed in the deadly attack. In his VA duties, he led a mental health team treating a wide variety of veteran patients, from the youngest combat veterans just back from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan to World War II veterans dealing with depression.
Seager signed up for the Army Reserve four years ago and was preparing for his first overseas deployment when he was killed. VA officials said he was motivated to prevent the mental health problems of young combat soldiers from occurring in the first place. He was to be assigned to a combat stress control unit to watch for warning signs, such as anger and insubordination, among front-line soldiers.
Seager, who held a doctorate degree and was a well-respected teacher at Bryant and Stratton College in Milwaukee, leaves behind a wife and son.
VA’s other fatality was Juanita L. Warman, 55, a nurse practitioner at VA’s medical center in Perry Point, Md. She was a lieutenant colonel in the Maryland National Guard, with two daughters and six grandchildren. She was the daughter of a career Air Force member and held a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
Warman volunteered for “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon,” a program to help members of the Maryland National Guard readjust after returning from overseas deployments. She provided mental health counseling and helped to develop a program about the myths and realities of post-traumatic stress disorder. She was preparing for deployment to Iraq at the time of her death.
Dorothy Carskadon, 47, a captain in the Army Reserve and a social worker and team leader at the VA Vet Center in Madison, Wis., was wounded. She was reported to be in stable condition in the intensive care unit at Fort Hood’s Darnall Army Medical Center.
As a VA team leader, Carskadon oversees other social workers in providing individual and group counseling for combat veterans experiencing difficulty readjusting to the civilian community following military service. A new Army officer, Carskadon was preparing for her first deployment.
On an average day, officials said, more than 850 VA employees don uniforms to serve military commitments in Reserve and National Guard units across the country and overseas.
VA has been responding to the Fort Hood tragedy since shortly after the sound of gunfire was replaced by the sirens of emergency responders. Through official agreements and the shared sense of mission to care for military members and veterans in the central Texas region, VA has provided clinical supplies, including pharmaceuticals, and sent mental health teams from nearby facilities as well as four fully staffed, portable Vet Centers to aid in counseling military members and families.
Teams of physicians, nurses and other VA clinical and support personnel were placed on stand-by for possible deployment to Fort Hood or to receive additional patients following the shooting.
VA operates several clinical and benefits processing locations on Fort Hood, and routinely has about 18 employees working on the post. Initial actions included confirming the safety and security of those employees.
VA continues to coordinate with the Defense Department in providing care and support to all those affected by the tragedy, officials said.
(From a Department of Veterans Affairs news release.)