Should the Servicemen Killed in Chattanooga Receive Purple Hearts?

Republican Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated Wednesday that he wants to make sure the servicemembers killed in the Chattanooga shooting receive Purple Hearts.

Four Marines and one sailor were gunned down by 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez last Thursday in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at two separate military facilities, The Washington Times reports.

Without the courageous efforts of other nearby Marines to drag those hit to safety and attempt to subdue Abdulazeez, the situation could have been much worse, said Maj. Gen. Paul Bier, commander of the 4th Marine Division.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee wasn’t immediately sure whether he’d push for Purple Hearts and stated that he would discuss the matter further with Sen. Bob Corker. Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the legislators should work on a set criteria instead of proposing new legislation for each individual attack.

McCain previously acted on behalf of victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting to ensure they received Purple Hearts, as well. In January, he wrote then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and expressed disappointment at delays. Despite the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act including a provision to allow the awarding of the Purple Heart to victims of domestic attacks inspired by foreign terrorist organization, the Army was still dragging its feet. Other lawmakers from Texas also pushed the effort forward.

chattanooga-victims-compIn the beginning of February, the Army declared that victims of the Fort Hood shooting will receive the medal, and in April, the service held a ceremony to award the Purple Heart award. (RELATED: Fort Hood Victims Finally Honored With Purple Heart Medals At Ceremony)

McCain is not sure whether the provision allows the five servicemembers to receive the Purple Heart, but if not, new legislation will be forthcoming.

Questions remain about Abdulazeez’s radicalization. Apparently, Abdulazeez downloaded recordings from an al-Qaida recruiter and cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in 2011 by a drone strike in Yemen. U.S. officials are exploring whether Abdulazeez had any involvement with foreign terrorist organizations when he visited Jordan in late 2014.