More than a year ago, Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning was shot six times by a fellow soldier at Fort Hood in Texas. Miraculously, he survived, but the wounds, both physical and emotional, may never fully heal.
Manning, whose mother, Shari Taylor, lives in Hailey, was one of 42 people gunned down at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009. Thirteen died. The accused assailant, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, faces court martial on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
Manning, 35, now faces his second Christmas since the shootings thankful to be alive.
"I shouldn't technically even be here," Manning told the Idaho Mountain Express in a recent interview. "I don't know of a lot of people who have survived six gunshot wounds."
Manning was one of the first people shot in the rampage. He took a round in the chest, three in the abdomen and one each in a leg and foot. But fortunately, none of the bullets hit major organs or arteries.
Five of Manning's friends, comrades in the Combat Stress Unit of the U.S. Army 467th Medical Detachment Unit, weren't as lucky and were killed. The unit was temporarily stationed at Foot Hood, awaiting deployment to Afghanistan. Manning served two prior tours of duty in Iraq.
Manning is still with the 467th, but is currently assigned as a reservist in a "warrior transition battalion" and assumes that he will eventually receive a medical retirement.
He said he would prefer to stay in the Army, but physical problems that haven't gone away make it unlikely he'll ever be assigned foreign deployment.
"Even if I stayed in, they wouldn't deploy me, so I'm kind of stuck," he said. "I'd prefer to get out and do things—that's part of the fun of the job."
Manning, a Twin Falls native who now lives in Lacey, Wash., earned a master's degree in psychology from Idaho State University and was working on his doctorate when he was tapped for deployment in 2009. At this point, he's uncertain where his career will go, but plans to stay in the mental health field.
As a member of a combat stress unit, his job in the Army was to watch out for the mental health of other soldiers in combat or other stressful situations. Looking on the bright side, Manning said his experience with the Fort Hood shootings may help him become a better mental health counselor.
"Obviously, this puts a different spin on things," he said. "Being a mental health counselor and being shot is kind of an odd combination. It gives me a better understanding of what some of these guys are going through."
Manning said he's anxious to get back to work, but acknowledges that he's not yet fully recovered.
"I still have a bullet in my back and in my leg and it's hard to walk," he said. "With that bullet shifting around in my back, I still have a lot of pain."
He said eventually the bullets may be removed. However, he said, "I don't really want to go through surgery again right now."
The physical injuries still prevent Manning from having an active life, which hinders his ability to overcome depression and anxiety from the trauma.
"You're not able to do the things you used to do to relieve pressure," he said.
Plus, he added, he still has a sense of remorse from the loss of five friends.
Manning said life is gradually getting better, but "still has its ups and downs.
"The anniversary was rough. Going down to testify was rough, and I'll have to go down and testify at the trial," he said.
In addition to his having to stave off depression, Manning said, the wounds have caused increased anxiety.
"It makes you more fearful that something like this can happen again," he said. "I'm less trustful of people, because you think you're safe and then someone's shooting at you."
Manning visited the Magic and Wood River valleys last year for Christmas. This year he's staying in Lacey with his wife, Autumn, and his mother will do the traveling.
Taylor acknowledged that her son is still struggling to overcome what happened.
"It's not where we want it to be, but it's a miracle that he lived," she said. "I consider us blessed, but it's been a tough year.
"It's been harder than I thought it would be. But then I look at the Bergdahls and I think what they're going through and I think I have it easy."
Taylor was referring to the Bowe Bergdahl family from Hailey, whose son has been a prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan since June 2009.
Despite his injuries, Manning tries to maintain a positive outlook.
"It's nice to be up and around and be around my family again," he said. "It will be nice to get back to work.
"I think things are going to work out. Sometimes it just takes time."
Terry Smith: email@example.com