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2015-04-16

Victims of 2009 Fort Hood massacre receive Purple Hearts, Medals of Freedom

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Courtesy photos
Forty-four Purple Heart and Defense of Freedom medals were presented to those slain and wounded during a 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood. The award ceremony took place in Killeen on Friday, April 10.

(Editor's Note: Additional material for this article was supplied by Heather Graham-Ashley, who serves as III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs.)

After nearly six years and legislative action, shooting victims from a Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood were recognized during a Purple Heart and Defense of Freedom award ceremony held at the post in Killeen on Friday, April 10. Forty-four medals were presented.
Last year, United States Senator John Cornyn successfully led a push in Congress to update federal law making Fort Hood victims eligible for the Purple Heart - a cause he has championed since 2009.
After attending the ceremony honoring the victims of the 2009 Fort Hood attack, Cornyn said, "Today's ceremony culminates a long fight that has brought us all together. I am truly honored to see these heroes receive the recognition and military honors they deserve. While we can never repay what was lost that day, this ceremony brings long awaited justice to the victims."
Tragic day
III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, joined by the Secretary of the Army John McHugh, presented Purple Hearts and Secretary of Defense Medals for the Defense of Freedom to victims and family members of the fallen from that tragic day at the ceremony.
Thirteen people were killed in the shooting at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center. Another 31 were wounded by gunfire. The gunman, former Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan, was convicted and sentenced to death in September 2013. He is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth.
"We honor the memories of the 13 souls laid to eternal rest and pay tribute to their sacrifice," MacFarland said. "We also remember the acts of courage and selflessness by soldiers and civilians which prevented an even greater calamity from occurring that day."
Purple Hearts were presented to representatives of 10 of the soldiers killed, as well as to 26 of those wounded. The Defense of Freedom Medal - the civilian equivalent of the Purple Heart - was presented to the family of Michael Cahill, the lone civilian contractor killed, as well as to Kimberly Munley, the Department of the Army civilian police officer who was shot when she responded to the scene.
Purple Hearts for four other soldiers wounded and the families of two soldiers, who were also killed during the terrorist attack, will be awarded at local ceremonies throughout the nation, MacFarland said. They were not forgotten. "We honor them, as well," the general said.
The recipients hailed from 21 states and units from across Fort Hood and throughout the United States Of those killed, seven were active-duty, five were reservists and one was a civilian contractor.
"Hundreds of lives have been woven together by this single day of valor and loss," MacFarland said. "Although no words can resurrect those we lost or completely erase the scars, today's ceremony is an opportunity to provide a sense of closure to those who were injured or those who lost a loved one."
Bravery applauded
He applauded the bravery of the first responders who rushed into the active scene, those who distracted the shooter enabling others to escape and those who provided emergency aid to the wounded.
"Their bravery has been matched only by their resilience - the spirit of which is seen throughout the Army," MacFarland said.
He noted that the 20th Engineer Battalion at Fort Hood lost four soldiers that day and had 11 wounded, and the 467 Medical Detachment, an Army Reserve unit based in Madison, Wisconsin, had three soldiers killed and four wounded in the shooting. "Despite these losses, both units deployed to Afghanistan within months," MacFarland said.
Texas' junior Senator Ted Cruz also attended the ceremony. Regarding the presentations, he said, "It was profoundly moving to witness the ceremony as family members received awards on behalf of their loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice and survivors were finally recognized for their bravery on that day in November, 2009."
Cruz continued, "One of the greatest responsibilities of representing 27 million Texans is ensuring that our service members are given the care they have been promised. I will continue to fight for these soldiers until they receive the benefits they deserve for standing on the front lines to defend this nation."
Not workplace
violence
Many of those wounded that November day said the ceremony served not only as recognition of their sacrifice and injuries, but also of the magnitude of the shooting. They thanked the legislators for their efforts to make the awards presentations possible.
Receiving the Purple Heart validates her experience, said Capt. Dorothy Carskadon, a Reservist with the 467th Combat Stress Control Unit on Nov. 5, 2009.
"It validates that it was a terrorist activity," she said. "It draws a line, a distinction between workplace violence and terrorism."