Military Connection: Purple Hearts for Ft. Hood Victims

Purple Heart

By Debbie Gregory.

The Secretary of the Army has approved awarding the Purple Heart to victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting.

The Purple Heart is the oldest U.S. military decoration, dating back to the Continental Army. General George Washington issued three Purple Hearts during the Revolutionary War, but in those days, the decoration was designated as a badge of military merit.

But since 1932, the Purple Heart has only been presented to service members who were “wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.”

While the requirements for qualifying for the award have changed, the tradition of the medal and the respect for the recipient has remained in the highest esteem of the military community. Purple Heart recipients have stood down the face of serious harm or death, and did their duty.

On November 5, 2009,  Army base Fort Hood in Texas was the site of an unforgettable attack. A U.S. Army Major, Nidal Malik Hasan, carried out a bloody assault that killed 13 people and wounded 32 others at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center. Hasan was convicted in 2013 of 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to death.

Hasan admitted that he acted because of what he claimed was U.S. aggression against Muslims. It has been reported that before carrying out the attack, Hasan had communicated numerous times with Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the chief propagandists for al-Qaeda.

The Purple Heart is typically awarded to service members wounded in a war zone. But the award can also be authorized in unusual circumstances, including international terrorist attacks against the United States. However, the Army declined to call Hasan’s attack at Fort Hood an act of international terrorism. This has led Congress to include a provision in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act which required the DOD to review the Fort Hood case for Purple Heart recipients.

Congress decided to expand eligibility for the award by redefining an attack by a “foreign terrorist organization.”  The new definition includes  incidents in which an individual involved was in communication with a foreign terrorist organization beforehand and the attack was inspired or motivated by it.

Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, stated that the existing criteria for the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Defense of Freedom Medal, had prevented the Army from approving the medals for Fort Hood victims.

“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,” McHugh said. “It’s an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice.”

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Military Connection: Purple Hearts for Ft. Hood Victims: By Debbie Gregory