While serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, one of my committee assignments was with the House Armed Services — and the subcommittee on Military Personnel. I was honored to serve on a committee dedicated to providing policy oversight to our men and women in uniform and their families.
Therefore, I took to heart the travesty of the Islamic jihadist attacks at the Little Rock, Arkansas recruiting station, at Ft. Hood, Texas and against our U.S. Airmen at Ramstein AB. In all of these instances, no one wanted to recognize these attacks for what they were – because of blind denial or political correctness — but someone needed to speak out.
And so I sat with my Legislative Director, Josh Grodin, and we came up with a piece of legislation called the Global Combat Zone Recognition Act. The purpose was to recognize any attack anywhere against our men and women in uniform as no different from an attack in what was termed a “combat zone” — because indeed, they were in combat everywhere on the 21st century battlefield. ISIS has certainly reminded us of this over social media — and the savage attacks against the Canadian soldiers and British soldier Lee Rigby provide further examples.
The Global Combat Zone Recognition Act had bipartisan support because it would ensure those men and women would receive the proper recognition and benefits. It was a solid piece of legislation and policy — but for whatever reason the House Majority Leader at the time refused to give it attention.
So it goes on Capitol Hill. Josh and I are no longer there, but our efforts may finally be bearing fruit. As reported by the Washington Times, “Victims of the Fort Hood shooting will soon be eligible to receive the Purple Heart, with Congress pushing ahead with a policy change that would officially recognize domestic terrorism as an issue, rather than the “workplace violence” designation the Obama administration had used. The issue has been contentious since the 2009 attack, with victims and their family members saying Army Maj. Nidal Hasan’s shooting spree was clearly linked to the broader war on terror that the U.S. is fighting overseas. For years, the families’ congressional allies had butted heads with the Obama administration, which balked at designating part of the U.S. the equivalent of a battlefield.”
This past summer I stood with two of my former colleagues at Ft. Hood Texas, Rep. John “Judge” Carter and Rep. Bill Flores — speaking out to right this wrong. Congratulations, gentlemen. Our men and women are fighting against a vile and vicious enemy who knows no borders or boundaries and see our troops as targets — everywhere — and that includes their families. This is the right step in finally understanding that this is indeed a global conflagration.
“It’s been a long fight, and we’ve always had some stumbling blocks, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed and will be very happy when this thing is signed by the president so we can go back to those people who have been waiting for some acknowledgment of their injuries,” Rep. John R. Carter, Texas Republican, told The Washington Times.”
“Under current law, Purple Hearts can be awarded to members of the military who are killed by an enemy in battle or wounded severely enough to see a doctor. The issue, Mr. Carter said, is that those who opposed this change don’t believe the base near Killeen, Texas, is an “official battlefield” – but the battlefield is everywhere against this enemy.
The White House did not have an immediate comment on the change. But why not? Why wouldn’t the Commander-in-Chief fully embrace this policy change and as a matter of fact, be its greatest advocate? Why wouldn’t every single Member of the U.S. House and Senate not stand shoulder to shoulder and fully welcome this policy change to send a powerful message to our enemies? We recognize you want to fight us everywhere — and we shall meet you, defeat you and protect our men and women providing them with the proper recognition for their service.
This means so very much not only to those in uniform but also to the families — especially for those who have lost their lives in service to America from the hands of the enemy right here on our homeland. Nidal Hasan has admitted to being a “Soldier of Allah” and a jihadist who wishes to join ISIS — he is hailed as an example. Therefore, let us set a greater example in recognizing those he cowardly attacked — such as Carlos Bledsoe, and any others.
As the Times recounts, “Hasan shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” while going on his shooting spree that left 13 dead and more than 30 injured. In testimony, the American-born Muslim said he was receiving assistance from foreign terrorist sources, and an FBI investigation found he had been emailing with Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader who was killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. Hasan was sentenced to the death penalty in 2013, but the appeals process is expected to last for years if not decades.” Where were the protests and riots for justice for our men and women innocently gunned down at Ft. Hood?
According to the Washington Times, “the Pentagon said in a 2013 letter that changing the medal criteria to include victims of Fort Hood could affect the integrity of the Purple Heart and “irrevocably alter the fundamental character of this time-honored decoration.” Defense officials also worried deeming the shooting an act of terrorism while legal proceedings take place would strip Hasan of his right to a fair trial.”
Well, the trial is over and there is no excuse. Extend the Purple Heart recognition.
It is my hope that perhaps one of the newly elected House or Senate members who are veterans will resurrect the Global Combat Zone Recognition Act and get it passed. It is the right thing to do for our men and women who serve willingly to give the “last full measure of devotion.”