Secretary of the Army John McHugh announced today that he has approved awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, to victims of a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded in the attack by Major Nidal Hasan, who was convicted in August, 2013, of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.
Under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, Congress expanded the eligibility for the Purple Heart by re-defining what should be considered an attack by a “foreign terrorist organization” for purposes of determining eligibility for the Purple Heart. The legislation states that an event should now be considered an attack by a foreign terrorist organization if the perpetrator of the attack “was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack” and “the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.”
The Purple Heart’s strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood,” . “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.
Last year, Texas Senator Ted Cruz introduced an amendment to the 2015 National Defense Reauthorization Act (NDAA), which was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee and passed by Congress, to expand Purple Heart eligibility to victims of the Fort Hood terror attack.
Cruz released a statement today:
On November 5, 2009, a brutal terror attack was carried out at Fort Hood. The lives of 14 people were taken, one of them an unborn child, and 32 were injured. Today, we are grateful that the U.S. Army has chosen to bestow the Purple Heart, and its civilian counterpart, the Medal for the Defense of Freedom, on these victims.
This attack was a clear act of radical Islamic terrorism, conducted on American soil – the original decision to designate it ‘workplace violence’ and deny these honors was a betrayal of the sacrifice of each of the victims. It is well past time for them to receive these awards and I thank the Secretary of the Army for reaching this determination. We can never undo the events of that day, but we can properly honor the courageous patriots who protect our nation and remain forever grateful for them.
McHugh directed Army officials to identify soldiers and civilians now eligible for the awards as soon as possible, and to contact them about presentation of the awards. Soldiers receiving the Purple Heart automatically qualify for combat-related special compensation upon retirement. Recipients are also eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Following his 2013 conviction, Hasan was sentenced to death by a general court-martial. He is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while post-trial and appellate processes continue.