U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), and Congressman John Carter (R-Texas) today jointly introduced the Fort Hood Victims and Families Benefits Protection Act in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to ensure that the victims of the November 5th, 2009, attack on Fort Hood, Texas receive the same benefits and honors as those Americans who have been killed or wounded in a declared combat zone overseas.
Senator John Cornyn said, "The federal government failed to prevent the November 5, 2009 terrorist attack on Fort Hood, but it still has an opportunity to do the right thing for the victims and their families. The victims were attacked by someone who shares common cause with the very same terrorists our troops are fighting overseas on the battlefields of the Global War on Terror. When Americans fall victim to a senseless act of Islamic terrorism on U.S. soil, the physical and mental wounds are no less severe than when the same attack happens in Afghanistan or Iraq. As such, they deserve the very same benefits and honors for their service and sacrifice. My prayers remain with the fallen, the injured, and their families and friends, and I hope this legislation will aid in their healing process.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said, "On the tragic day that our service men and women were murdered on U.S. soil, Fort Hood became another battlefield in the War on Terror. There can be no question that these brave soldiers were engaged in enemy combat when they were attacked, and their service and sacrifice in this war must be recognized. Their families' painful loss should also be met with our nation's support and gratitude. Our legislation would honor these fallen heroes and their families in the manner they so rightly deserve."
Congressman John Carter said,"We cannot allow political correctness to deny the victims of this attack the proper recognition and status they deserve. We awarded combat status to our casualties from the radical Islamist attack on the Pentagon, and we owe no less to our casualties from the radical Islamist attack on Fort Hood."
The terrorist attack that shook Fort Hood on November 5th, 2009, killing 13 servicemembers and one Department of Defense (DoD), and wounding 32 others, was correctly labeled as the "deadliest terrorist attack within the United States since September 11th, 2001," by a recent Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report. Unfortunately, those killed and wounded at Fort Hood by the homegrown Islamic extremist will not necessarily receive the same benefits and honors as their counterparts who are wounded or killed in an overseas combat zone such as Afghanistan or Iraq or in a declared terrorist attack.
The bill introduced by Senators Cornyn, Hutchison, and Congressman Carter would deem the Fort Hood attack, for the purposes of all applicable laws and other rules, to have occurred in a combat zone at the hands of a terrorist and an enemy of the United States. In so doing, this legislation would afford the victims of the Fort Hood attack (which include both troops and civilians) the same benefits as servicemembers wounded or killed in combat zones or, as applicable, DoD civilians wounded or killed in "contingency operations" or terrorist attacks. One impact of these provisions would be to make those servicemembers wounded or killed in the Fort Hood attack eligible for the Purple Heart, to be awarded at the discretion of the military. Further, the bill expresses the sense of Congress that those killed or wounded should receive the Purple Heart (for servicemembers) or the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom (the equivalent award for DoD civilian employees).