EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – Hundreds of people gathered in Springfield on Saturday to pay their respects to a local army veteran who came back from the Middle East as a war hero, but ultimately suffered from PTSD that changed his life and contributed to his death.
Friends and family members took part in a memorial service for Michael Thomas Mason on Saturday, February 9 at Springfield High School.
Mason was born in Eugene and eventually graduated from Springfield High in 2002. Shortly after graduation, Mason enlisted in the Army and eventually served one tour in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Mason was nominated by his superiors for several honors due to his high level of service.
After his time in the Army, Mason moved back to Lane County. Eventually, he was diagnosed with PTSD by staff in the Veterans Affairs Health Administration.
In December 2010, Mason, who was suffering from the effects of PTSD, fired a gun at multiple unoccupied cars in the parking lot of Eugene's Valley River Center mall. When Eugene Police officers attempted to stop Mason in his car, police shot at Mason three times. One of the bullets hit Mason's spine, paralyzing him from the neck down.
Mason died at a VA hospital in Seattle in last month due to health problems stemming from the shooting. He was 29 years old.
Members of the Oregon Patriot Guard Riders took part in memorial services for Mason on Saturday, lining the street with flags during the service.
"I never shook Michael's hand, but he to me is an American hero,” said Bil Vaughan of the Patriot Guard Riders of Oregon.
“People don't understand how much the PTSD is effecting our young men and women when they're coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. And we really need to put some time and energy into giving these young men and women some help with it,” said Vaughn.
The Lane County District Attorney's Office never charged Mason in the shooting. When discussing the incident with the media in December 2010, District Attorney Alex Gardner said Mason was, “remorseful that his breakdown caused [the shooting] to unfold.” Gardner said Mason was “the sort of young man that every family in every community hopes to raise”.