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Fort Hood shooting victims to get Purple Heart

A civilian killed by Major Nidal Hasan will receive the Defense of Freedom Medal.

By Frances Burns
Fort Hood shooting victims to get Purple Heart
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the memorial service for the 12 soldiers and one civilian killed at Fort Hood five days after the 2009 massacre. UPI File Photo by Tannen Maury/Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- A change in the law allows those killed and wounded in the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, to receive the Purple Heart, Army Secretary John McHugh said Friday.

A civilian physician assistant who was among the 13 dead will get the Defense of Freedom Medal, equivalent to the Purple Heart, McHugh said.

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Major Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, opened fire on Nov. 5, 2009, at the medical center where he worked at Fort Hood, killing 13 people and wounding 32. He targeted soldiers and generally spared civilians, although Michael Cahill was gunned down when he rushed Hasan wielding a chair.

The mass shooting was clearly motivated by Hasan's anger over what he saw as U.S. policy toward Islam. But he acted alone, and the Army did not classify the massacre as an incident of international terrorism.

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In the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, Congress approved a change that allowed an attack to be considered to be carried out by a "foreign terrorist organization" if the attacker had been communicating with the group or had been inspired by it.

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"The Purple Heart's strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood," McHugh said in a statement Friday. "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 sacrifices."

Purple Heart recipients are entitled to combat-related retirement pay and burial in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said there had been " years of unnecessary delays and political gamesmanship."

"Although nothing can ever repay them for their sacrifices, I hope that honoring them with Purple Hearts will offer a sense of recognition and appreciation on behalf of a grateful nation," he said.

Hasan was convicted and sentenced to death in 2013.

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