Purple Hearts awarded for 2009 shooting at Army post in Texas

By Jon Herskovitz
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Fort Hood Purple Hearts

In this Nov. 10, 2009 file photo, soldiers salute as they honor victims of the Fort Hood shooting at a memorial service at Fort Hood, Texas. The Army said in a letter addressed to Congress on Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 that the victims of the 2009 shooting that left 13 dead and more than 30 wounded will receive the Purple Hearts many have said they deserve. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Dozens of people who survived a 2009 shooting rampage at the Fort Hood U.S. Army base in central Texas and relatives of those who were killed received Purple Heart and Defense of Freedom medals on Friday after years of lobbying by politicians and lawyers.

In February, the U.S. Army cleared the way for the military and civilian distinctions after the shooting was declared an act of international terrorism..

Nearly 50 awards were handed out at the base.

In addition to the medals, the awards also confer additional benefits, from Veterans Health Administration health care and combat-related special compensation to burial privileges at Arlington National Cemetery, lawyers for the group have said.

"It is our sincere hope that today, we will in some small way help to heal the wounds that you have suffered. Of our honorees, it can truly be said that all gave some and some gave al on that terrible day," Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, the commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said at the ceremony.

Then-Army Major Nidal Hasan, an American-born Muslim, opened fire on unarmed soldiers preparing for overseas deployment on Nov. 5, 2009, killing 13 people and wounding 32 others in what he later called retaliation for U.S. wars in the Muslim world.

The Army had previously designated the shooting to be "workplace violence" on the grounds that Hasan was a fellow soldier, and there was no evidence that the attack was directed by a foreign enemy.

But Congress inserted language into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 expanding the eligibility for the Purple Heart by stating it should cover an attack if the perpetrator was in communication with foreign terrorists or inspired by one.

"The men and women who put themselves in harm's way on that fateful day deserve nothing less than this high honor for their sacrifices," U.S. Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, said earlier this year in lobbying for the group.

Hasan was convicted of murder in 2013 and sentenced to death. His execution date has not been set as his case is appealed.

(Editing by Eric Walsh and Susan Heavey)