Fort Bragg soldier survives Fort Hood shooting, set to receive medal

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They are the 15 to 20 seconds Sgt. George Long replays each day -- April 4, 2014 at 1600 hours.

They are the 15 to 20 seconds Sgt. George Long replays each day -- April 2, 2014 at 1600 hours.

A dozen or so soldiers, including Long, packed into a small Fort Hood conference room for the start of what was supposed to be a routine meeting.

Instead shots rang out next door, and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson, Long's supervisor, was the first to jump up and barricade the office door. Long, 29, would follow.

"We were holding the door when the shooter fired through and killed Sgt. Ferguson," said Long.

Through tears, he remembers his supervisor.

"I often think about everything that's happened since then, and how I wouldn't have been here for any of it without him," Long cried.

Next month, for his actions of barricading the conference room door against an active shooter that day, Long will receive the Soldier's Medal at Fort Bragg where he's currently assigned to the 18th Field Artillery Brigade. It's the highest honor for a non-combat situation.

For Long, it's just another chance to honor Sgt. 1st Class Ferguson.

Remembering a deadly day

Long, a High Point, N.C. native, was working as an intelligence analyst with the 49th Transportation Battalion at Fort Hood last year.

By April 2014, his unit had been back from Afghanistan for nine months. It was a successful year-long deployment. No loss of life.

"Then we're back in Garrison and you don't expect somebody to get killed," Long said during an interview on Tuesday.

On the day of the shooting rampage, Long had settled into a small conference room with a handful of soldiers to include 39-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Ferguson. He sat directly across from the NCO for whom he held the utmost respect.

"He looked out for his fellow soldiers, especially the lower enlisted," said Long. "He was a Sergeant First Class, but even if you were a Private in his section, he still worried about how you were doing."

Ferguson would be the first to hear the shots ring out from next door. They came from Spec. Ivan Lopez's .45 caliber Smith & Wesson. He'd returned to battalion headquarters after an earlier dispute with soldiers regarding a leave request.

Lopez came right for the conference room door.

Two soldiers escaped through other exits. Others hit the ground for cover. Ferguson and Long barricaded the door, but Lopez's bullet would pierce through it, past Long and striking Ferguson.
By the end of an 8 minute post-wide rampage, Lopez would kill Ferguson, two others, himself, and wound 16.

The altercation. His mental health. His right to carry a firearm. All of those factors would become storylines in an attempt to explain why Spc. Lopez went off.

"I don't know why Spc. Lopez did what he did and I'm not really concerned with it," said Long.

However, Long can call the names of those who sprang into action, tried to aide a bleeding Ferguson, and one who wounded himself -- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Hector Negron. Spec. Isaiah Hubbard, Spec. Wilfred Sanchez, but it's Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson he can't forget.

"I think about it every day," he choked up. "I'll often be sitting there things, just eating a piece of ice cream, whatever, or something as trivial as that, and think 'If not for Sgt. 1st Class Ferguson....."

Long continued to choke up.

"I think about if I have to do something difficult, I just think of all the difficult things that other people have to do and Sgt. Ferguson is kind of my example to just push and go through it," said Long.

Moving forward

As he pushes through, Long has his wife Corinna by his side. The two met on Fort Hood and had only been dating about five months at the time of the shooting. They married in Sept. 2014.

Long had sent a text to his parents and Corinna to tell them he was alright following the shooting.

Today, the young soldier just deals with the replay of those 15 to 20 seconds.

"He never really talks about it with me," Corinna said. "So I just sort of let him deal with it."

There was never a time that what happened that day made Long think about straying from the Army.

"I had no illusions when I joined the Army," Long said. "This was really unrelated to the Army. It could have happened anywhere. Our response to it was based on our training and stuff -- how everyone came together and kind of reacted. We were in the Army, but it could have happened anywhere."

Long keeps in touch with the soldiers who packed inside that conference room last April.

To Sgt. 1st Class Ferguson, he extends the simplest, and most meaningful goodbye.

"I just say thank you," Long cried.

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