Family of fallen soldier calls on military, government to do more for service members with PTSD

CINCINNATI - No one is watching the trial of the U.S. Army officer accused of the mass shooting at Fort Hood closer than one local father who believes his son lost his life that day.

Maj. Nidal Hasan is accused of killing 13 people and wounding dozens more in the Nov. 5. 2009 attack in an attack on a U.S. military base in Texas.

Howard Berry, of Norwood, believes his son, Staff Sgt. Josh Berry, was wounded when the shooter opened fire inside a crowded medical building at the sprawling Army post in Texas.

While he was not one of the 13 soldiers who lost their lives or the 32 others who were struck by bullets, Josh Berry struggled through years of pain and suffering caused by the attack before he couldn't handle it anymore, family members said.

The Mason native committed suicide on Feb. 13, 2013, a result of years of post-traumatic stress caused by the Fort Hood shooting, according to his father.

Howard Berry knew soon after the attack that his son was a changed man. While it would be several years before he had to endure the pain of burying his son, he believes a part of his son died during the attack.

"The next time I spoke with him it was after the shooting and it wasn't the same person," Howard Berry said.

According to his father, Josh Berry was eye-to-eye with Hasan before closing a door, sealing off himself and others from the shooter. He called out to lock the door, and told everyone to keep down and stay quiet.

The action most likely saved the lives of the seven other soldiers inside the room.

Even with a door between him and the shooter, Josh Berry struggled to escape the bullets, carnage and gloom reality of the situation.

He dove for cover, dislocating his shoulder, when the gunshots started coming through the door of the room in which the soldiers were hiding. He saw fellow soldiers and friends fall down, and believed he would be next. 

While he ultimately survived the attack, he lost a part of himself that day.

"He never recovered. He was tortured every day for the rest of his life," Howard Berry said. "He had trouble sleeping. He had trouble eating. It just ate him up."

After the shooting, Josh Berry battled post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD ), according to family members.

His father said he often needed to stand guard outside his son’s apartment so he could sleep.

Josh Berry endured a life of guilt and pain and sadness after the incident in Texas and the cumulative experiences of years of military service.

He was a mechanic for eight years in the reserves before re-enlisting in 2006 and joining the artillery. He had just finished a year-long tour in Afghanistan that included firefights and the general hells of war before his transfer to Fort Hood.

While his son and others like him have received an outpouring of emotional support, Howard Berry believes soldiers suffering from PTSD need more. He’s calling on the government to do more.

In order to make his goal a reality, Berry has written to every member of congress and President Barack Obama to ask them to help combat PTSD.

Despite his efforts, the response has been underwhelming. Berry said he's mailed out 540 letters so far but has only received eight responses.

"I’m saying just do what's right, just do what's right by these folks," he said.

Luckily for Berry, one of the the responses he received was from a legislator in his home state, Sen. Rob Portman. He will soon travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with the senator.

Portman’s office said it will make sure Berry has an opportunity to meet with the senator, senior Pentagon officials and members of congress.

While the meetings are a move in the right direction, Berry knows there's still a long way to go. But he's committed to doing everything he can to make sure what happened to his son doesn’t happen to other soldiers.

"It's too late for my son, but there are some other people that are affected by this."

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