Victims of the 2009 deadly shooting at Ft. Hood in Texas will finally be awarded purple hearts, the Army announced in a letter to Congress on Friday.
"The Purple Heart's strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood," Secretary of the Army John McHugh said in a statement. "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, for civilians, the Defense of Freedom medal."
"It's an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice," he added.
The decision was first reported by Fox News.
“This has been a long, hard fight. The victims of this attack have struggled, suffered and been abandoned by this Administration. No more. Today is a day of victory and I am honored to have fought on their behalf,” Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) said in a statement. “The Administration did not want to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack. I have received confirmation from the Pentagon that the victims will receive the Purple Heart and the Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom. I want to thank my Texas colleagues for their help and support; including Rep. Williams, Rep. Thornberry, Senators Cornyn and Cruz. I commend the Secretary of the Army for stepping up to provide the victims their due benefits and to finally give closure to the families.”
"Today’s announcement is great news for the men and women whose lives were forever altered after the terrorist attack on Fort Hood more than five years ago,” added Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas).
"It is high time the Obama Administration live up to its promise to properly honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice," he said. "Though this will not bring back those 13 innocent Americans and one unborn child we lost that day, it will restore the benefits and treatments the victims and survivors earned and deserve."
The attack by Maj. Nadal Hassan had been classified as "workplace violence," prohibiting the victims from receiving the combat medal and the benefits that go with it. But in December, the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act passed Congress with a provision that would make the victims eligible for the award and the related benefits.
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.”
Witnesses said Hasan shouted “Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!” before opening fire, killing 13 and wounding over 30. As TheBlaze TV’s For the Record reported last 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.
After the act was signed into law near the end of December, the military undertook a reexamining of all such incidents. Now, three sources have confirmed to Fox that the Ft. Hood shooting victims will finally get their medals.
“The federal government is beginning to take the appropriate actions to properly take care of our soldiers that were affected that day,” Retired Army Sgt. Howard Ray -- who was wounded in the attack and one of the heroes that day -- told TheBlaze last month as the initiative picked up steam.“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.”
Tom Orr of For the Record contributed to this report. This story has been updated with more information.