VIDEO: West Fargo Woman's Brother Honored For His Role In Ft. Hood Shootings
by Kyle Johnson, KVRR Reporter/Producer
June 19, 2012
A West Fargo woman's brother killed in the chaos of the Fort Hood shootings back in November 2009 is receiving a major honor.
Michele Vannote will travel from Fargo to Garden Grove, California next month to attend the dedication of the Captain John Paul Gaffaney Army Reserve Center, dedicated to her brother's heroic efforts during the shooting.
Remembered now as a loving husband, father, and brother by his sister, Michele Vannote, Captain John Gaffaney is being honored as a hero from the United States Military for one ultimate act of self-sacrifice that saved the lives of countless soldiers.
"I don't think any of us were surprised by his heroic action because he was a man of action," Vannote said.
In November of 2009, investigators say Nidal Hassan opened fire on his fellow soldiers at a Fort Hood processing center.
"Just picking them off, one by one. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!" said Vannote. "So you can imagine the carnage. People were just hitting the floor."
Gaffaney had just gotten on base earlier that morning, and was waiting to get his vaccinations in the very room where the shooting spree ensued.
"He whispered to the man next to him who hit the deck. He said, 'when he changes his clip let's rush him.'"
Gaffaney laid down his life distracting Hassan, allowing others to escape.
"He didn't make it," his sister said. "But he did deflect the shooter from killing more than 13 people."
And it's that act of unquestionable bravery in face of such odds that has earned him a high military honor, with the dedication of the Captain John Paul Gaffaney Army Reserve Center next month in California.
"They selected July 21st to be the day of the dedication ceremony," said Vannote. "That would have been John's 59th birthday."
A 24-year veteran of the Military, Gaffaney spent years trying to re-enlist out of retirement in the aftermath of the September 11th terror attacks.
"He rose to the occasion," added his sister.
And once he was accepted back in, his passion for service showed throughout.
Fellow soldiers looked up to his leadership, and support, which is why his sister says it's so fitting a reserve center would bear his name.
"John was a very quiet person and self deprecating. He would not want all of this attention, but I think in his heart of hearts he'd be proud."
A source of pride for this West Fargo woman born out of such a staggering tragedy.
Knowing that through this dedication, her brother's act of courage will forever be remembered among his brothers in arms.
"He's our hero," Vannote said, holding back tears.
Gaffaney was set for his first deployment to Middle East.
Senator Kent Conrad assisted in the efforts to get the building dedicated in Gaffaney's name.