A provision to make sure that those wounded in the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood get due recognition and benefits as victims of a domestic terror attack has been included in the FY2015 defense reauthorization.
The bill was marked up this week in the House Armed Services Committee, and the final version integrated the Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act, which was introduced in the upper chamber in September by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and in the House by Reps. John Carter (R-Texas) and Roger Williams (R-Texas). Carter and Williams share Fort Hood in their district boundaries.
The bill specifically states the attack was “not merely workplace violence,” notes the attack on Fort Hood “could and should have been prevented,” recognizes that former Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan “had become radicalized while serving in the United States Army and was principally motivated to carry out the attack by an ideology of violent Islamist extremism,” and adds “Hasan proved himself to be not just a terrorist, but also a traitor and an enemy of the United States.”
It stipulates that the Purple Heart should be awarded to service members killed or injured in the attack, and civilians killed or wounded should get the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom. Benefits would be the same for those killed or wounded in a combat zone, and post-traumatic stress disorder treatment would be covered.
The bill has 225 co-sponsors in the House. In November, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told PJM he wasn’t hearing “pushback” on the bill in the upper chamber. “I think we’re going to have broad support; we just haven’t had a vehicle to get this done,” Cornyn added.
On Thursday, Cornyn cheered the House committee for weaving the legislation into the behemoth defense bill.
“I applaud the members of the committee for their leadership in approving this important piece of legislation for Fort Hood and the surrounding community,” Cornyn said in a statement. “The 2009 Fort Hood victims should be eligible for all the honors and benefits available to U.S. troops who fall victim to an international terrorist attack, especially Purple Heart medals, and this would make that a reality.”
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) sponsored the legislation as an amendment to the defense bill in committee.
“The House Armed Services Committee approved an amendment that I offered to FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act that would require the Department of Defense to award Purple Hearts to soldiers killed in the 2009 Fort Hood shootings. I offered this amendment on behalf of Congressman John Carter (R-TX31) and Congressman Roger Williams (R-TX25), who are not on the Committee,” Conaway said in a statement. “The amendment awards the Purple Heart to service members who are victims of an attack that was inspired or motivated by a U.S. State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization.”
“The service members who lost their lives on November 5th, 2009, were fighting a terrorist,” he added. “As we know too well, the battlefield in the War on Terror is not limited to foreign lands. Men and women who defend America against terrorism on American soil, should be eligible to receive the Purple Heart and other medals that recognize their heroism.”