WASHINGTON — The secretary of the Army has announced his approval for awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian equivalent, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, to victims of the 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas.
Army Secretary John McHugh made the announcement following a change in the medals’ eligibility criteria mandated by lawmakers, a U.S. Army news release revealed on Friday.
The Army press release noted:
In a review of the Fort Hood incident and the new provisions of law, the Army determined that there was sufficient evidence to conclude Hasan “was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack,” and that his radicalization and subsequent acts could reasonably be considered to have been “inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.”
“Previous criteria required a finding that Hasan had been acting at the direction of a foreign terrorist organization,” it added.
Under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2015, Congress expanded the eligibility for the Purple Heart award by redefining what should be categorized as an attack by a “foreign terrorist organization.”
The NDAA of 2015 states that an incident should now be considered an attack by a foreign terrorist organization if the assailant “was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack” and “the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.”
Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 in the November 5, 2009, terrorist attack. He was convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder in August 2013 and was sentenced to death by a general court-martial following his conviction.
President Obama’s Pentagon refused to recognize the massacre as an act of terror, referring to it as “workplace violence,” instead.
Army officials have been directed to identify soldiers and civilians who are now eligible for the awards.
“Soldiers receiving the Purple Heart automatically qualify for combat-related special compensation upon retirement,” explained the Army. “Recipients also are eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.”
Hasan is currently incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while post-trial and appellate processes move forward.
“The Purple Heart’s strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood,” Army Secretary McHugh explained, adding:
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.