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Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And Im Renee Montagne. At Fort Hood, Texas, a few of the soldiers wounded in last Thursdays attack have recovered enough to talk. The troops were in the Soldier Readiness Center waiting to receiving a final medical checkup before shipping out to Iraq. That's when Major Nidal Hasan allegedly jumped on a table and opened fire. NPRs Wade Goodwyn went to the hospital where some are recovering and brings us one soldiers story.
WADE GOODWYN: Paul Martin grew up in Georgia playing basketball and avoiding his class work as much as possible.
Sergeant PAUL MARTIN (United States Army): I was a little country boy from Adel, Georgia.
GOODWYN: Martin had no intention of joining the Army, but his cousin wanted to. The two of them were playing basketball one afternoon.
Sgt. MARTIN: And he said, he said, Paul, come on, go down to that recruiting station with me. I said, Im not joining no Army. And I went down with him and the recruiter talked to me. He said, well, you know, you took the test in high school. I said, yeah, to get out of class. And then after I got in, I just loved it, and I just became a soldier. And it's the discipline. I'm always on time where I need to be, and I just love it.
GOODWYN: Twenty-seven blissful years of Army life later, last Thursday Sergeant Martin was at the Soldier Readiness Center getting his final check before deploying to Iraq. He says the first moment he knew something was wrong was when he felt a sudden sharp pain in his arm.
Sgt. MARTIN: Then when it hit in my arm, I grabbed my arm and I realized I ain't never been hit that hard. I said, Golly, this hurts. And then when I looked at my hand, my hand was just covered in blood, but I was laying on the floor, and the floor was covered with blood. In mind, I said, I got to get out of this building. Ive got to get out of this building.
GOODWYN: Martin won't talk about the alleged gunman, Major Hasan. The Army is concerned that anything the wounded or witnesses might say regarding the alleged shooter's actions that day could compromise the prosecution. But Martin was allowed to talk about what happened to him, and he says that in the span of a few seconds the Readiness Center erupted into chaos.
Sgt. MARTIN: To me it like stuff was going on in there, but you can hear stuff. You can hear it, and it sounded like a cannon going off.
GOODWYN: There are reports that as the major allegedly began to methodically choose and kill his victims, that some soldiers fought back by throwing chairs and tables at him. More than 100 rounds were fired, people were getting shot, some fatally, every few seconds. Sergeant Martin decided to make a run for the door, but that was a mistake. He stood up and sprinted, but the gunman saw him, aimed, and shot him in the back.
Sgt. MARTIN: When I hit and I crawled, low-crawled, using my Army techniques, they taught me to get under cover, and then I just knew, I seen another soldier and I said, weve got to get out of this building.
GOODWYN: Martin had been hit twice more: shot in the back and once the leg. The wound through his midsection was the most serious, but although he was bleeding badly, he was still conscious.
Sgt. MARTIN: I was remembering the way I came in there, and I was trying to remember the way - the way I know I came in was the way I was trying to get out. My mind was to get out of this building, and well work out everything else later.
GOODWYN: The staff sergeant's training kicks in, and he Army-crawls on his knees and elbows, adrenaline coursing through his veins, a blood trail on the floor behind him. He manages to crawl behind a partition near the door and astonishingly, despite his wounds, he gets to his feet and runs for the glass doors. This time he makes it outside.
An unimaginable scene of horror still plays out behind him. Coming toward him is a much happier sight: the U.S. Army running to the rescue as fast as their feet will carry them. Soldiers grabbed the obviously wounded sergeant, pull him to a place out of the line of fire, lay him down on the grass and begin to administer first aid.
Sgt. MARTIN: I had a bullet wound in my arm, my leg, and some hit me in my back. They say I was shot four times. I didn't know about this arm. This arm, like (unintelligible) feels normal. The leg, lower thigh and lower - in the back right here.
GOODWYN: Two surgeries later, Sergeant Paul Martin has staples in his stomach, stitches in his back, a vein from his leg has moved to his arm. Incredibly, he still plans to join his unit in Iraq once he's fully recovered and promises that will be sooner than everyone thinks. The boy from Adel, Georgia who had no intention of joining the military says he loves his Army life.
Sgt. MARTIN: And they don't care about where you're from, how big your town is, how much money you got, none of that, none of those factors. The Army is just -nobody - you all - everybody's on the same level, no matter who you are.
GOODWYN: By the end of yesterday, Martin was demonstrating just how gung-ho he was moving out of the hospital and into the Fisher Recovery House across the street.
Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Killeen, Texas.