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Fort Hood Victim Shares Story of Survival, Recovery at Minn. State Fair

Updated: 08/30/2014 6:26 PM
Created: 08/30/2014 2:24 PM KSTP.com
By: Kate Renner

It's been nearly five years since a U.S. soldier opened fire on his own comrades. Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009, killing 13 people and injuring 30 others.

One army sergeant, who was injured in that shooting and fought for his life to survive and recover, spoke Saturday at the Minnesota State Fair at the Mayo Clinic booth.

"They called me number 14 for a while, because I shouldn't have lived, survived my wounds," said Sergeant Patrick Zeigler.

As Zeigler takes a load off at the Minnesota State Fair, a fellow military man seeing his battle wounds asks Zeigler if he was hit by a roadside bomb.

"No sir, I went to Iraq twice and survived all those bombs, then I came back in 2009, I was at Fort Hood during the shootings," said Zeigler.

Zeigler was one of the first people shot by Nidal Hasan.

"Right here in the head, and that went and knocked me out of my chair. I was trying to escape and he  went and shot me three more times," said Zeigler.

In 2013, Zeigler testified against Hasan.

"He looked me straight in the eyes and pulled the trigger," he remembered.

Zeigler says his recovery was an uphill battle filled with emotional darkness. He spent 800 days in the hospital recovering, but now lives independently with his family in Rochester, Minnesota.

"I had to learn to walk three separate times, because every time I had a major brain surgery, I would be too weak to do my rehab," said Zeigler.

After multiple brain surgeries and recuperation at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, he's celebrating his life as a husband and father.

"Here we are, four years later, with a son, and we're doing really well," said Zeigler.

He says his wife has been a huge support through the years of recovery.

Zeigler has moved on with his life, but his attacker clearly hasn't. On Saturday, Hasan wrote a letter to the Islamic terrorist group ISIS asking to become a "citizen" of the Islamic State.

"He's voluntarily declaring that he's a terrorist," Zeigler said.

Zeigler believes he and his colleagues were victims of a home-grown terrorist attack and should be honored accordingly.

"It's considered workplace violence. Because the administration, President Obama, has not declared it an act of terrorism, nobody is eligible for the Purple Heart," said Zeigler.

Humbly refusing to be called a "hero" as a survivor, Zeigler says he knows it was for a purpose.

"I think I'm here for a reason," he said.

Sergeant Zeigler will share his experiences through Labor Day at the Mayo Clinic Mobile Museum. It's part of the clinic's 150th anniversary.

Major Nidal Hasan was convicted last August and sentenced to death.

Sgt. Patrick Zeigler shares his story of surviving the 2009 Fort Hood shootings at the Minnesota State Fair.
Photo: KSTP-TV

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