Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) says he will make sure the four Marines and a Navy Petty Officer killed during the attack on a Navy training center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, receive Purple Hearts.
“We will make sure it happens,” McCain told The Washington Times.
The Senator went on to say he is uncertain whether the fiscal 2015 defense policy bill, which includes changes allowing the Purple Heart to be awarded to active-duty service members killed by terrorist organizations or those they inspire, will cover the Chattanooga slain. If not, he expressed a commitment to pass any new legislation necessary.
Noting that Texas representatives were instrumental in securing the changes necessary to award Purple Hearts to the targets of a jihadi rampage at Fort Hood in 2009, the Times reports Tennessee Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker were not yet certain if they would join in a legislative push for the Chattanooga Marines and sailor. “I haven’t gotten to that yet, and I’ll have to discuss it with Sen. Corker,” said Senator Alexander. “We’re busy trying to think of what we can do to help the families to make sure they receive the benefits they’re entitled to. Then we can turn our attention to whether there are other honors that they deserve.”
Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island, ranking minority member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, indicated his support for awarding Purple Hearts to the Chattanooga fallen. “I think we should probably step back and make a determination not incident-by-incident but general authority to the secretary of the Service to make awards, give them some criteria,” he said. “The immediate reaction is these young Marines and the sailor sacrificed their lives for the country — that’s pretty clear.”
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, and Lance Corporal Skip Wells were the Marines killed on July 16, while Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith died of his injuries the following Saturday. Military and law enforcement officers have said these men sacrificed their lives to distract the gunman and save dozens of others who might have been killed in the attack. The only thing preventing them from qualifying for the Purple Heart is the reluctance of the political class to confront the true nature of their assailant.