After years of waiting, service members wounded and killed in the 2009 shooting rampage at Ft. Hood are awarded the Purple Heart in a ceremony at the central Texas military post Friday morning.
The delay had been a sore point for the dozens wounded and the survivors of the 13 people killed when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, yelling "God is great" in Arabic, opened fire in a processing center for military personnel preparing to ship overseas.
Survivors of the attack and families of the dead had long fought to be eligible for the medal. Under previous law, the military categorized the attack as workplace violence, but a federal law that took effect this year changed the criteria for awarding the medal to those wounded or killed.
Under the legislation, part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, an event could be considered an attack by a foreign terrorist organization if the perpetrator "was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack" and "the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization."
During his court-martial, Hasan wrote a letter to a Texas newspaper saying that he "was defending my religion" and that Islam should prevail over other religions as well as American democracy. He referred to the radical Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki as "my teacher and mentor and friend" and signed the letter "SoA," an acronym for "Soldier of Allah" or "Servant of Allah."
Hasan was convicted of multiple counts of murder and attempted murder and sentenced to death. He later said he wanted to join Islamic State and now sits on military death row at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas. The American-born Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
After Congress modified the law, Army Secretary John McHugh announced in February that the Purple Heart would be awarded to Ft. Hood casualties. Two will receive its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom.
"It's an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice," McHugh said in a statement.
Purple Heart recipients automatically qualify for special compensation upon retirement and can be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, according to the statement.