FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) – Nearly three years after the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, many of those affected are urging the government to declare it a terrorist attack, saying wounded soldiers and victims’ relatives otherwise won’t receive the same benefits as those in a combat zone.
A video expressing their frustration was released Thursday by a group of about 160 people, including relatives of the 13 people killed at the Texas Army post and some of the more than two dozen wounded and their families.
They say soldiers injured or killed deserve fair benefits and Purple Heart eligibility.
“The victims are being forgotten and it’s frustrating,” Kimberly Munley, one of the first two officers who arrived at the shooting scene on Nov. 5, 2009, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Because the defense secretary has not declared it a terrorist attack, the soldiers injured or killed have not received certain benefits and are not eligible for the Purple Heart, said John Stone, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. John Carter. The Texas Republican has sponsored a bill that would make those provisions available for the Fort Hood victims.
Maj. Nidal Hasan, an American-born Muslim, faces the death penalty if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. The case is on hold as his lawyers fight the trial judge’s order that Hasan either shave his beard, which violates Army rules, or be forcibly shaved before trial.
Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning, who was shot six times that day, said his injuries prevented him from continuing to serve. But he won’t receive the same benefits as those severely wounded on the battlefield because an Army medical evaluation board didn’t deem his injuries as combat-related, he said.
Manning also said he is upset that the Defense Department has referred to the shooting as workplace violence.
An October 2011 letter on behalf of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was sent to U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, saying “the department is dealing with the threat of violent Islamist extremism in the context of a broader threat of workplace violence.”
The Department of Defense did not return a call or email seeking comment from the AP.
Witnesses have said that after lunch on Nov. 5, 2009, a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform opened fire after shouting “Allahu Akbar!” – or “God is great!” in Arabic – inside a Fort Hood medical building where deploying and returning soldiers received vaccines and other tests. He rapidly fired, pausing only to reload, shooting at soldiers hiding under desks and those fleeing the building, according to witnesses.
On the video released Thursday by the “Fort Hood coalition of heroes,” some soldiers recounted being shot that day, while others said they tried crawling to safety.
“It was an act of terrorism,” said Munley, who was shot three times.
A Senate report released last year said the FBI missed warning signs about Hasan, who the report said had become an Islamic extremist and a “ticking time bomb” before the rampage.
U.S. officials have said they believe Hasan’s attack was inspired by the radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, and that Hasan and the cleric exchanged as many as 20 emails. Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last fall.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)