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Army Will Award Fort Hood Victims Purple Hearts

A soldier walks past a flag at half staff before a memorial service at Fort Hood on April 9, 2014 in Texas.
Brendan Smialowski
AFP/Getty Images
A soldier walks past a flag at half staff before a memorial service at Fort Hood on April 9, 2014 in Texas.

The Army has decided to award the victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting with a Purple Heart, Texas Rep. John Carter said in a statement.

The issue has always been contentious, because the Army has always maintained the incident, in which Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, opened fire and killed 13 people, amounted to workplace violence.

As The Washington Post reports, the Purple Heart is normally awarded to those injured in a war zone. An exception could be made for those injured during international terrorist attacks.

The Post explains:

"The Army declined to call Hassan's attack international terrorism, however. That led Congress to include a provision in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that required the Defense Department to review the Fort Hood case for Purple Heart recipients.

"[Army Secretary John McHugh] said in a statement that the criteria for the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Defense of Freedom Medal, had prevented the Army from approving the medals. Congress has expanded eligibility by redefining an attack by a 'foreign terrorist organization' to include an incident in which an individual involved was in communication with a foreign terrorist organization beforehand and the attack was inspired or motivated by it, he said."

Hassan, as you may remember, had contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who went on to become a chief propagandist for Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Rep. Carter called the turn-around "a day of victory."

The Austin-American Statesman reports that the move means the victims of the shooting and their families will be able to claim "enhanced medical, retirement and hiring benefits."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.