Victims of the 2009 Fort Hood massacre are one step closer to receiving the Purple Heart.
The Senate on Friday passed the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which contained a provision that would make the victims eligible for the Purple Heart and related benefits; the House of Representatives passed it last week. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.
AP Photo/LM Otero
On November 5, 2009, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire inside a medical facility at Fort Hood. He killed 13 people, including a pregnant woman, and wounded 32 others. He is currently in prison after being sentenced to death last year.
Witnesses said Hasan shouted “Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!” before opening fire. As TheBlaze TV's For the Record reported earlier this year in its episode "Broken Heart," investigators had learned even before the attack that Hasan had been in contact with radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
For more than five years, the government has classified the attack as "workplace violence" instead of terrorism, making the victims ineligible for Purple Heart medals as well as financial compensation typically paid out to the families of soliders killed in overseas combat.
Several members of Congress, including Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), have spent years fighting to change that. Now, they may have finally succeeded.
Section 571 of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act broadens the criteria for the Purple Heart to include military personnel and civilian Department of Defense employees "killed or wounded in attacks inspired or motivated by foreign terrorist organizations." The change would also apply to the victims of a 2009 attack outside an Army recruiting center in Arkansas.
"This has been a top priority for my Texas colleagues and me ever since the tragic attack in 2009. I am relieved that the victims and families of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting are finally nearing justice and closure," Carter said in a statement after the bill passed the House
Retired Army Sgt. Howard Ray was one of the heroes at Fort Hood who helped lead people near the shooting scene to safety.
"The federal government is beginning to take the appropriate actions to properly take care of our soldiers that were affected that day," Ray told TheBlaze. "Sadly, those affected that day waited painfully over five years for the cries of those civilian and military personnel to be heard by the federal government they serve. Therefore, the actions this day bring some relief to this tragic page in America's history. However, they have yet to hold anyone accountable for allowing Nidal Hassan to continue his career in the Army, despite many red flags indicating his radical ideology."