The Department of Defense issued a position paper stating the Pentagon is opposed to victims of the Fort Hood shooting receiving Purple Hearts.
A copy of the position paper sent to the Herald from attorneys representing the plaintiffs in an ongoing legal battle between the Fort Hood shooting victims and the Defense Department stated awarding the medals would undermine Maj. Nidal Hasan’s upcoming trial.
Awarding Purple Hearts to the victims of the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting would indirectly declare Hasan a terrorist, the paper stated.
A sub-section in the pending Defense Authorization Bill contains language that would allow victims of the Fort Hood shooting and the two victims of the June 1, 2009, shooting outside of a Little Rock, Ark., recruitment station to be awarded Purple Hearts.
The DOD position paper called the sub-section a “laudable sentiment” that “mistakenly and unwittingly supplants the criminal trial process.”
That doesn’t sit well with Neal Sher, attorney for the numerous plaintiffs who have filed suit against the Defense Department.
“It is an utter outrage, bordering on some sort of a very sick joke,” he said. “They truly cannot be serious.”
In a statement, Fort Hood’s congressman, John Carter, R-Round Rock, said he disagreed with the DOD paper, but has decided to not publicly advocate his legislative efforts to have the medals awarded to the Fort Hood shooting victims.
On Thursday, Carter canceled a planned news conference at Fort Hood’s main gate to publicize a bill that would make victims eligible for a Purple Heart. Some of the victims were slated to attend.
“The DOD position paper is dead wrong to oppose this legislation,” Carter said. “These victims deserve recognition and compensation for the injuries and loss of life from a direct attack on a U.S. military installation.”
Purple Hearts are largely reserved for soldiers who are killed or wounded in a combat situation. However, victims of “international” terrorism may receive the medal.
The Defense Department has called the Fort Hood shooting an act of “workplace violence,” and Army officials have not made any formal terrorism charges against Hasan.
However, reports have called Hasan a “lone wolf terrorist.” And in the ensuing three years since the shooting, it has become public knowledge that the 42-year-old Army psychiatrist communicated with a leading official in al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula before the shooting.
Many also suspect Hasan’s actions were affected by extremist Islamic beliefs. Victims have testified he shouted “Allahu Akbar” — Arabic for God is great — during the shooting.
He is a self-professed devout Muslim who has asked the presiding Fort Hood court to accommodate daily prayers and tolerate his decision to break military regulations by growing a beard he says is for religious reasons.
The victims’ attorney said the government has been incongruous in its decision over the terrorist label.
While Pentagon officials balk at making any official declaration, Army prosecutors have brought in a terrorism expert to testify in Hasan’s upcoming court-martial.
Sher said victims have been denied the benefits that would be available to them if the government awarded them Purple Hearts. The DOD paper stated the government has diligently tended to the needs of the victims.
“This is news to our claimants,” Sher said. “The truth is, of course, very different. The victims have been given the back of the hand by their government.”