The U.S. Army announced Friday that it will award the Purple Heart to the victims of the 2009 Fort Hood killings after years of pressure to designate the shooting as a terrorist attack.
Army Secretary John McHugh said presenting the Purple Heart to victims is “an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice.”
“The Purple Heart’s strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood,” Mr. McHugh said in a Defense Department release. “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.”
Lawmakers have pushed for years for those injured or killed in the attack to receive the medal — as well as the accompanying lifelong medical and financial benefits — but only recently revised the definition of a terrorist attack to include Fort Hood in December’s annual defense policy bill.
“Since the days following the attack in 2009, the victims, their families, the Fort Hood community and so many of us have recognized that fateful day for what it was: an act of terrorism against our country and against our men and women in uniform,” Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said in a statement. “We can never repay what was lost that day, but today’s news brings long-awaited justice to the victims, especially those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The Fort Hood shootings, carried out by former Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan, were classified acts of “workplace violence,” even though media outlets and witnesses reported that he shouted “Allahu Akbar” while opening fire.
Hasan was convicted in August 2013, after which his attorney released letters to Fox News that indicated he pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State.