• November 26, 2014

Senators introduce bill to reclassify Fort Hood shooting

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Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 2:13 pm, Thu Jan 23, 2014.

Nidal Hasan’s trial may have ended, but the fight to reclassify the Nov. 5, 2009, Fort Hood shooting as terrorism continues.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both Texas Republicans, introduced a bill Thursday to reclassify the shooting at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center as an act of terror and provide more benefits for victims and their kin.

“(The bill has) gained broad support, and I do believe we’ll be able to move this bill in the Senate and House expeditiously,” Cornyn said Wednesday. “It’s nothing political. It’s honoring them.”

Known as the Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act, the bill would require the Secretary of the Army to award Purple Hearts to soldiers who were killed or wounded in the attack, and require the defense secretary to award the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, or the Purple Heart equivalent, to civilians who were killed or wounded.

A military jury last month sentenced Hasan to death for the attack that left 13 people dead and more than 30 hurt. He is now on military death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Leila Hunt-Willingham, sister of Spc. Jason “J.D.” Hunt, who was killed in the shooting, said the bill won’t directly impact her or her mother, because her brother was married. She does support the legislative efforts, because they would help her “Fort Hood family.”

“I’ve seen some of them struggle and I’ve seen a lot of bravery,” she said of other survivors and families affected by the shooting. “I know that they need this help and I think the military in general needs to do a better job supporting our wounded and our soldiers.”

Purple Heart recipients can get special plates for their vehicles and free use of certain Texas toll roads. Many schools across the country also offer free tuition to recipients.

Other specific benefits, which would be provided for the service members injured or families of those soldiers killed, include combat-related special compensation, maximum coverage under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, tax breaks after death a in combat zone or terrorist attack, special pay for subjection to hostile fire or imminent danger, combat-related injury rehabilitation pay and meals at military treatment facilities.

The Army has not provided a cost estimate of the bill, according to Cornyn’s office.

U.S. Reps. John Carter, R-Round Rock, and Roger Williams, R-Austin, said they will file similar legislation in the House.

“It’s just important for us to make sure the victims of the Fort Hood shooting are taken care of, especially the survivors,” Hunt-Willingham said. “For somebody who proudly wears the uniform, they should know we will fight for them the way they fight for us.”

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