Fort Hood Victims Awarded Purple Hearts After Long, Controversial Battle

DoD had long denied survivors medals, likening attack to workplace violence.

ByABC News
April 10, 2015, 10:39 AM

— -- Today the military awarded the victims and survivors of the 2009 Fort Hood attack with Purple Hearts and other medals, after a more than five-year-long bureaucratic struggle over whether the awards were deserved.

Kimberly Munley, the former police sergeant credited with stopping the attack, and civilian Michael Cahill, who was killed, were honored with Defense of Freedom Medals.

For years the survivors have fought to get the military to recognize the shooting by Maj. Nidal Hasan as a terrorist attack, which would make them eligible for the Purple Hearts and other combat-related benefits. But the military pushed back, likening the attack to workplace violence.

A Pentagon position paper obtained by ABC News in April 2013 said that giving the victims the Purple Heart could "irrevocably alter the fundamental character of this time-honored decoration" and "undermine the prosecution of Major Nidal Hasan by materially and directly compromising Major Hasan's ability to receive a fair trial."

PHOTO: Nidal Hasan
This undated photo provided by the Bell County Sheriff's Department shows Nidal Hasan, who is charged in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left 13 dead and more than 30 others wounded.

Thirteen people were killed and another 32 were injured when Hasan opened fire on his fellow soldiers at the Texas Army facility in November 2009. Hasan said during his trial the troops were about to deploy to Afghanistan where they would pose an immediate danger to the Taliban, whom he said he was defending.

Three years after the attack, Munley told ABC News she felt "betrayed" by President Obama, who had welcomed her as a hero at the 2010 State of the Union Address.

"Betrayed is a good word," Munley said. "Not to the least little bit have the victims been taken care of... In fact, they've been neglected."

Hasan was convicted and sentenced to death in August 2013. But still, the military pushed back on awarding Purple Hearts to the victims until last month.

PHOTO: Police Officer Kimberly Munley at the US Capitol, Jan. 27, 2010 in Washington.
Police Officers Kimberly Munley, center, and Mark Todd, left, of Killeen, TX look on as first lady Michelle Obama waves to the chamber before President Barack Obama's speech to both houses of Congress during his first State of the Union address at the US Capitol, Jan. 27, 2010, in Washington.

The move was precipitated by a change in the law that broadened the strict eligibility rules for the medal, which is awarded to those wounded in combat. Advocates for the victims gained support from members of Congress who succeeded in including legislation in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that broadened the definition of an attack by a “a foreign terrorist organization" to include contacts the perpetrator may have had with a foreign terrorist organization prior to the attack and “if the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.”

ABC News' Luis Martinez contributed to this report.