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Purple Heart sought for soldier killed at Fort Hood

JENSEN BEACH — Ginny Luther feels like her son was killed twice.

The first time was on Sept. 8, 2008.

Lt. Robert "Bart" Fletcher was shot by a fellow soldier while investigating a potential theft at Fort Hood, Texas. He was 24.

The second time was on May 31, 2010.

Ginny Luther and Bart's stepfather, Jack Luther, were at a Memorial Day parade in Stuart.

As Gold Star parents, they were seated in the front row, alongside other families of slain service members.

At Memorial Park, at the end of the parade route, white crosses were standing in long rows. They honored men and women from Florida who had been killed in action during military conflict.

Bart had no cross because he was killed while on duty in the states.

"It just feels like a slap in the face. It feels like the country just turning their back on you," Ginny said recently at her Jensen Beach home.

Bart is not eligible for a Purple Heart because he did not die in combat at the hands of an enemy.

The Luthers are working to change that.

"What more could our son have given to his country than his life?" Jack asked.

The evening after the parade, Ginny e-mailed Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., who spoke at the event.

She told him she was outraged. Demoralized.

"Why should the fallen soldiers caught in this 'home front combat' have to be the scapegoat for the military's shame?" she wrote.

Rooney said he has directed his staff to write a letter to Fletcher's commander, requesting an exception for a Purple Heart.

"I don't know how realistic that is, but we've got to try," Rooney said.

If the victims of last year's mass shooting at Fort Hood receive Purple Hearts, as some have proposed, it could help Bart's chances.

Jody Wirawan, the 22-year-old who shot Bart, then himself, was an army specialist from Alaska who had served in Iraq.

Bart was sent by his captain to Wirawan's apartment to investigate missing equipment, according to the version of events the Luthers have been provided by the Army.

Wirawan did not answer the door, so Bart called his captain, who advised him to enter by removing a window.

Wirawan shot Bart, then himself.

The Luthers have started a foundation, the Lt. Robert Fletcher Memorial Foundation, with hopes of bringing a new approach to troubled soldiers to schools at military bases.

The effects of war are not neatly contained on battlefields. Every day, soldiers come home with psychological wounds that contribute to the violence on military bases.

Purple Heart sought for soldier killed at Fort Hood 10/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 11:38pm]
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