Fort Hood victims finally to get Purple Hearts

The shooting victims of Major Nidal Hasan's Islamic-inspired rampage at Fort Hood in 2009 are finally getting their just due.

A change in the Defense Reauthorization Act that was signed by President Obama in December makes those killed or injured as a result of domestic terrorist attack eligible for receiving the Purple Heart.  Previously, the Pentagon had denied these men and women the decoration due to military policy that only recognized those wounded in a war zone for the decoration.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Friday he approved awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, to victims of the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood, following the change in the medals’ eligibility criteria mandated by Congress. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded in the attack by Nidal Hasan, who was convicted in August 2013, of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.

“The Purple Heart’s strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood,” McHugh said. “Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe there is sufficient reason to allow these men and women to be awarded and recognized with either the Purple Heart or, in the case of civilians, the Defense of Freedom medal. It’s an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice.”

Carter, along with other local representatives, long advocated the decision, which also makes the shooting victims eligible for more benefits.

“Today’s announcement is great news for the men and women whose lives were forever altered after the terrorist attack,” said Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin. “I am grateful for the joint efforts in Congress with Rep. Carter, Sens. (John) Cornyn and (Ted) Cruz and our colleagues who helped push for a legislative fix. ... Though this will not bring back those 13 innocent Americans and one unborn child we lost that day, it will restore the benefits and treatments the victims and survivors earned and deserve.”

Carter said the legislation for the policy change received 225 cosponsors in Congress, though it only needed 219.

“This was a bipartisan agreement that this was a mistake being made,” he said. “Today, we’re happy to announce that mistake is being corrected.”

There was always a question whether the secretary of the Army could have changed this rule on his own, without the approval of Congress.  The families were grateful but criticial that it took so long:

“For five years, the White House and the political echelon at the Department of Defense pushed the workplace violence line. And it’s a lie,” said Reed Rubinstein, an attorney for some of the victims. “To admit the truth — that it was a terrorist attack by a jihadist — is a small but important first step toward making the victims whole.”

Howard Ray, 34, a retired Army sergeant who survived the attack and now is a graduate student in criminal justice, said he hopes to one day craft legislation “to help soldiers to not have to deal with something like this ever again.”

The families will also receive extended benefits relating to the shooting now that the law has been changed.  But the unnecessary pain the victims and their families were forced to endure because of political correctness must never be forgotten.

The shooting victims of Major Nidal Hasan's Islamic-inspired rampage at Fort Hood in 2009 are finally getting their just due.

A change in the Defense Reauthorization Act that was signed by President Obama in December makes those killed or injured as a result of domestic terrorist attack eligible for receiving the Purple Heart.  Previously, the Pentagon had denied these men and women the decoration due to military policy that only recognized those wounded in a war zone for the decoration.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Friday he approved awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, to victims of the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood, following the change in the medals’ eligibility criteria mandated by Congress. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded in the attack by Nidal Hasan, who was convicted in August 2013, of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.

“The Purple Heart’s strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood,” McHugh said. “Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe there is sufficient reason to allow these men and women to be awarded and recognized with either the Purple Heart or, in the case of civilians, the Defense of Freedom medal. It’s an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice.”

Carter, along with other local representatives, long advocated the decision, which also makes the shooting victims eligible for more benefits.

“Today’s announcement is great news for the men and women whose lives were forever altered after the terrorist attack,” said Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin. “I am grateful for the joint efforts in Congress with Rep. Carter, Sens. (John) Cornyn and (Ted) Cruz and our colleagues who helped push for a legislative fix. ... Though this will not bring back those 13 innocent Americans and one unborn child we lost that day, it will restore the benefits and treatments the victims and survivors earned and deserve.”

Carter said the legislation for the policy change received 225 cosponsors in Congress, though it only needed 219.

“This was a bipartisan agreement that this was a mistake being made,” he said. “Today, we’re happy to announce that mistake is being corrected.”

There was always a question whether the secretary of the Army could have changed this rule on his own, without the approval of Congress.  The families were grateful but criticial that it took so long:

“For five years, the White House and the political echelon at the Department of Defense pushed the workplace violence line. And it’s a lie,” said Reed Rubinstein, an attorney for some of the victims. “To admit the truth — that it was a terrorist attack by a jihadist — is a small but important first step toward making the victims whole.”

Howard Ray, 34, a retired Army sergeant who survived the attack and now is a graduate student in criminal justice, said he hopes to one day craft legislation “to help soldiers to not have to deal with something like this ever again.”

The families will also receive extended benefits relating to the shooting now that the law has been changed.  But the unnecessary pain the victims and their families were forced to endure because of political correctness must never be forgotten.