FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WNCN) — As part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, retired Army Capt. and mass shooting survivor John Arroyo gave an encouraging message to Fort Bragg soldiers today.
It was a homecoming for the Green Beret, who spent 15 years stationed at Fort Bragg before moving on to Fort Hood.
“I came to bring encouragement, hope and healing to our All Americans.”
Five months into his new leadership role in Texas, Arroyo’s life changed forever.
“On April 2, 2014, I took a 45 caliber round through my throat,” Arroyo said. “On that day there were 19 of us shot.”
Army Spc. Ivan Lopez started a shooting spree that left three people dead and more than a dozen injured.
“When I was shot I walked back to my car and I fell and as I laid on the ground I heard the voice tell me to get up,” Arroyo said. “I got up, I went to look for help.”
Arroyo says he then saw the shooter face to face again.
“He didn’t see me — it was like he was blind – and he walked away from me and he walked into the brigade and shot more people.”
Lopez then killed himself.
Arroyo forgave the shooter and has devoted his life to helping others.
“I was wounded by someone that I trusted, and I know that some of these soldiers may be going through things in life so I came back to give them some encouragement and let them know that they can get up also.”
Col. Herman Jay Johnson helped organize the event.
As a leader of 1,500 paratroopers, he says he regularly checks in on their mental health.
“Sit down have a conversation with them figure out where they’re coming from, and then we get them the necessary help that they need,” Col. Johnson said.
Arroyo says he’s been able to move on thanks to his faith, his family and his support system in the military.
“I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and that was what was instilled in me here at the 82nd Airborne Division,” Arroyo said. “It was to never quit, it was to always keep pushing forward.”