Purple Heart for Fort Hood Victims?
The Pentagon considers those killed by Nidal Hassan at Fort Hood three years ago victims of workplace violence, not terrorism.
The Pentagon considers those killed by Nidal Hassan at Fort Hood three years ago victims of workplace violence. A movement has sprung up to label them victims of terrorism and thus make them eligible for the Purple Heart.
AP (“Purple Hearts for Fort Hood victims?“:
Nearly three years after the Fort Hood shooting, a group of soldiers and their families is pressing the Department of Defense to make victims of the rampage eligible for the Purple Heart and other benefits.
About 160 people affected by the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting released a video this week describing the attack on the sprawling Texas Army post.
“The victims are being forgotten and it’s frustrating,” said Kimberly Munley, one of the first two officers who arrived at the shooting scene.
Maj. Nidal Hasan, an American-born Muslim who officials believe was inspired by a radical Islamic cleric, faces the death penalty if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the attack.
While several government reports have described the rampage as an act of terrorism, soldiers and their relatives say the only way Fort Hood victims and their families will get the same benefits as troops killed or injured in combat is if the defense secretary specifically designates the shooting a “terrorist attack.”
Pentagon press secretary George Little said Friday that the Department of Defense “will not, at this time, further characterize” the shooting because it is committed to the integrity of the ongoing court-martial proceedings against Hasan. There are concerns that formally changing the designation could affect the legal proceedings.
The National Counterterrorism Center’s 2009 Report on Terrorism called the Fort Hood shooting a “high fatality terrorist attack.” The shooting also was mentioned in the State Department’s “Country Reports on Terrorism 2009.”
Witnesses have said that after lunch on Nov. 5, 2009, a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform opened fire after shouting “Allahu Akbar!” – or “God is great!” in Arabic – inside a crowded Fort Hood medical building where deploying and returning soldiers received vaccines and other tests.
A Senate report released last year said Hasan had become an Islamic extremist and a “ticking time bomb” before the rampage at Fort Hood. Officials also say he exchanged e-mails with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical U.S.-born Islamic cleric killed in Yemen last year by a drone strike.
My strong guess is that, once Hasan is convicted, the Pentagon will join the rest of the government in declaring the shootings a terrorist act and that the uniformed victims will indeed be awarded the Purple Heart and any other additional benefits that come with that designation.
Those killed at the Pentagon on 9/11 were so honored and there’s no obvious distinction between the two groups, other than the fact that Hasan is an American citizen. That’s not a trivial distinction, since the Purple Heart award criteria continually use the words “foreign” and “international:
(1) In any action against an enemy of the United States.
(2) In any action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or have been engaged.
(3) While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force inwhich the United States is not a belligerent party.
(4) As the result of an act of any such enemy of opposing Armed Forces.
(5) As the result of an act of any hostile foreign force.
(6) After 28 March 1973, as the result of an international terrorist attack against the United States or a foreign nation friendly to the United States, recognized as such an attack by the Secretary of Army, or jointly by the Secretaries of the separate armed services concerned if persons from more than one service are wounded in the attack.
(7) After 28 March 1973, as the result of military operations while serving outside the territory of the United States as part of a peacekeeping force.
(8) Members killed or wounded in action by friendly fire. In accordance with 10 USC 1129 for award of the Purple Heart, the Secretary of the Army will treat a member of the Armed Forces described in (a), below, in the same manner as a member who is killed or wounded in action as the result of an act of an enemy of the United States.
The Fort Hood victims are technically in a gray area. While Hassan considered himself part of al Qaeda, it’s not clear that he actually was. And, since there wasn’t an ongoing firefight with an enemy force, his murder spree isn’t really “friendly fire,” either.