After battling victims for years, the U.S. Army has final made up its mind: victims of the massacre at Fort Hood will now receive the Purple Heart award and the accompanying benefits, which will bring much-needed relief.
For five years, victims have petitioned the Department of Defense to reconsider its classification of the Fort Hood massacre in 2009, and the petitions have only become more fervent, as many of the victims have been left unable to work because of physical and mental damage.
The Pentagon issued a statement on Friday, with Secretary of the Army John McHugh saying that the eligibility criteria has changed. Victims may now receive the Purple Heart, and their civilian counterparts can receive the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom. This means that upon retirement, victims will also receive combat-related special compensation.
“The Purple Heart’s strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood,” McHugh explained. “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.”
Congress included language in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 which changed the eligibility criteria in order for the DOD to even consider the massacre, in which 30 were wounded and 13 killed by Maj. Nidal Hasan, who shouted “Allahu Akhbar” during the attacks. In Arabic, “Allahu Akhbar” stands for “God is great.” The legislation modified the definition of an attack by a foreign terrorist organization to fit the Fort Hood massacre.
With the new law in place, the Army has suddenly discovered that there’s enough evidence to conclude that Hasan “was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack.”
The Obama administration refused to classify the tragedy as a terrorist attack, preferring to use the label “workplace violence” instead. Despite the fact that the FBI found that Hasan was emailing with al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki, the Obama administration repeatedly downplayed the attack, and some have speculated that it’s because of prior statements Obama made to the effect that al-Qaida’s influence was decreasing.
Since his conviction in August 2013, Hasan has released additional information showing that he pledged allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to Fox News.
The Obama administration tried to squash the provisions listed in the NDAA, but was ultimately unsuccessful, meaning that victims will at last be appropriately recognized and compensated.
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