Meridian Star

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April 4, 2014

Wife: Mississippi man among 20 shot at Fort Hood


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Renee Powell Westbrook had just returned home from her job at the state Department of Human Services when she heard the news from a friend: There had been a shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, where her husband, Sgt. Jonathan Westbrook was stationed between tours in Afghanistan.

"A friend said, 'Have you talked to Jon? Have you watched the news? You have to watch it."

Although she didn't really think he was in danger, Westbrook quickly dialed her husband at the base, the same installation where in 2009, an Army psychiatrist shot and killed 13 and wounded more than 30.

"He answered the phone real quickly," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday from the couple's home in McComb, Miss., about 430 miles east of Fort Hood. "He said, 'There's been an incident here and I have been shot.'"

Sgt. Westbrook was among 16 people wounded Wednesday when Spc. Ivan Lopez fatally shot three others before killing himself. Renee Westbrook said she was told that her 32-year-old husband, who left a job as a bank teller three years ago to join the Army, was hit three times, in the chest and one of his arms.

Westbrook said her husband's wounds did not seem to be life-threatening and that she believed he was about to be moved for X-Rays and other tests when she called him. The Army is flying Renee Westbrook out Friday morning to be with her husband, who is being treated at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas, she said.

"He's assured me he's OK but until I get a visual and say 'OK, you're OK,' he's not OK," she said. "They train them to downplay things."

It was hard telling their three children: Eric Powell, 10; Jonathan Westbrook, 5, and Kirsten Westbrook, 3.

"My oldest son, he's not saying too much. He wanted to call him last night. There was no way," Renee Westbrook said. "I told the little ones, 'Yeah, your dad is hurt.' They just know that he's hurt. When the time is right I'll let them talk to him."

She said the Army officially notified her of her husband's status about 5 a.m. Thursday, about 12 hours after she talked to him.

Although her husband does mainly administrative work, he told Renee Westbrook that he "was blown a couple feet" by a bomb in Afghanistan about a year ago, she said. He had a little nerve damage in the head and has been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.

"But other than that everything's OK," she said.

Renee Westbrook said her husband was scheduled to leave May 20 for a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. "That has been put on hold, I'm assuming, because of this," she said.

He had left Wood Forest Bank in McComb for stability and a career change, she said.

Sgt. Westbrook's parents live in Smithfield, Miss. He also has two sisters, she said.

"I'm just praying for all the families that are involved, even the ones not involved," Renee Westbrook said. "We have to always pray for our soldiers.

"I just thank God that He gave my husband a second chance."


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