Army finally gives Ft. Hood victims their full entitlements

On April 10, a grievance by military victims of an enemy attack was partially addressed. However, it appeared a charade perpetuated by President Obama for six years would still leave the victims without that to which they were rightly entitled.

To fully understand the victims’ plight, some background is needed.

{mosads}The Purple Heart is a unique military award. Most military medals are issued based on “recommendations” by others. However, one who sheds blood—i.e., is killed or wounded—“in any action against an enemy of the United States” becomes immediately entitled to the Purple Heart. The underlying basis for the medal makes it a “combat-related” award, generating certain medical and financial benefits, such as hostile fire pay, for recipients.

For years, U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who were killed or wounded in those combat zones automatically received a Purple Heart. This included victims of “insider” attacks—where allied soldiers suddenly turned on their unsuspecting American counterparts, motivated to do so by the hateful jihadist ideology we have been fighting since 9/11.

On November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas, another “insider” attack occurred. Unlike the others, the attacker, motivated by this same hateful jihadist ideology, was one of our own—U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan. Like the insider attackers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hasan proved to be a jihadist warrior-in-hiding. His murderous rampage claimed the lives of 13 and wounded 32 before he was wounded.

{mosads}The Fort Hood shooting victims were denied automatic entitlement to the Purple Heart. It took an act of Congress to address this injustice, allowing them to receive their medals on April 10.  

The reason it took six years for the entitlement to be recognized stemmed from the Obama administration’s insistence the Fort Hood shooting not be attributed to terrorist activity, but to “workplace violence.”

This was done purely for political purposes to avoid the obvious link being made that the attacker was motivated by his Islamic extremist beliefs. Obama, having repeatedly assured us Islam—by definition—is a peaceful religion, reasoned one conducting such a violent attack cannot be Muslim. Thus, it was not Islamic ideology but a hostile workplace that led to the attack.

Legislative action taken by Republican lawmakers corrected this wrong by adding language to the 2015 defense budget (National Defense Authorization Act) mandating their entitlement to the Purple Heart.

But even after the April 10 medal presentation, the victims were still being denied the benefits flowing from that award and to which all other Purple Heart recipients had been entitled.

The Department of Defense (DOD) took the position, while the legislation gave rise to entitlement to the Purple Heart for the Fort Hood shooting victims, it did not give rise to the “combat benefits” normally flowing therefrom.

The words “Purple Heart” and “combat” are so interrelated, it is difficult to understand how DOD sought to separate the two.

As one frustrated victim explained, “it’s almost unheard of for someone to receive the Purple Heart but not have their injuries deemed combat-related .”

DOD’s position seems to have been based on the premise a combat-related attack need come from a discernible “enemy” in a recognized “combat” zone. But, as 9/11 has demonstrated, today we fight an enemy to whom all of America IS a potential combat zone. Today, we fight a “Trojan Horse”—an enemy appearing non-threatening on the outside but, inside, filled with a hateful, jihadist ideology driving him to kill. Today, the identity of the enemy we fight and the location of the combat zone oftentimes is only revealed to us after a dastardly terrorist attack has taken its toll.

This is not the first time DOD applied rather outrageous reasoning to keep the Obama-mandated “workplace violence” label intact.

One Fort Hood victim, SSGT Shawn Manning, shot six times and still carrying two bullets in his body, received a DOD letter in 2012 explaining the justification for his benefit denial. It stated, “MAJ Hasan has been charged with criminal activity, but has not been adjudicated a terrorist.”

Thus, DOD argued, the incident was not combat-related, barring benefits normally given veterans for combat-related incidents. (In 2013, Hasan was convicted on 13 counts of pre-mediated murder and 32 of attempted murder.)

The eventual adjudication of criminal rather than terrorist activity flew in the face of evidence supporting the latter—Hasan’s email correspondence with then-wanted American terrorist, al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. (In September 2011, Awlaki became the first U.S. citizen targeted as a terrorist and killed in a U.S. drone strike.) 

The DOD letter outrageously went on to state, “Therefore, the clear preponderance of evidence does not support that the injuries sustained were the direct result of armed conflict” and that Manning’s injuries were not caused by an “instrumentality of war” as Hasan’s “weapon was a private semi-automatic pistol. The Army did not issue this weapon to the soldier.”

Such rationale was incredulous. This was especially so since DOD had given Purple Hearts, along with their normal benefit entitlements, to military victims of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Obviously, the weapon involved in that attack—a commercial passenger airliner—was not “an instrumentality of war” that “the Army did not issue.”

In a FoxNews interview, former Army Chief of Staff General Jack Keane questioned the semantics game DOD was playing, noting the Purple Heart is much more than a medal—it is a promise as well to care for the injured.

Apparently, General Keane’s lament did not go unheard.

On April 14, Secretary of the Army John McHugh recognized the absurdity of denying Fort Hood victims benefits for being shot in an incident labeled as workplace violence.

McHugh determined the congressional legislation giving rise to Fort Hood victims’ entitlement to receive their Purple Hearts also gave rise to the benefits attached to the medal. McHugh promised to make sure they received all benefits to which they are entitled.

The Army finally recognized its responsibility to soldiers caught in the line of enemy fire, regardless of location or the weapon of choice the jihadist attacker uses. Now, if only someone would end Obama’s “workplace violence” charade by calling the incident what it was—a terrorist act.

Zumwalt is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war.


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