Fort Hood Shooting Victims, Families Deserve Full
'We have a sacred obligation to take care of those among us who
are willing to put themselves in harm�s way so that the rest of us
can live free and peaceful'
The following op-ed by Senator John
Cornyn first appeared in the :
As the trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan draws the
eyes of the nation, let us direct that attention to those who deserve
it: the victims and their families.
The strength and
resilience of the Fort Hood community is legendary. No U.S. military
installation has deployed more troops into overseas theaters of combat since
Sept. 11, 2001, than Fort Hood, and none have endured more combat
casualties in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi
Twelve soldiers and one civilian were killed at Fort Hood on
that November day in 2009. Over 30 were injured.
dead were Michael Cahill, a 62-year-old civilian physician assistant,
and Capt. John Gaffaney, 56, who were shot down as they charged the
shooter. Their bravery and their heroism saved lives.
among the dead was Francheska Velez, a 21-year-old private first class
who served honorably in Iraq. She was six weeks
These men and women came from all walks of life and every corner of the
nation, but they were bound together by a love of country and a
desire to serve.
As a country, we must ensure that the dead, the
wounded, and the families of the victims receive the full honors and
benefits bestowed upon soldiers who are wounded or killed in overseas
combat zones and their families.
Unfortunately, we have not
yet lived up to that commitment. To date, no Purple Hearts or the
civilian counterpart, the Medal for the Defense of Freedom, have been
awarded to the victims. Many of the benefits associated with serving in
overseas combat zones have been similarly withheld. Benefits like
hostile fire pay and special compensation for combat-related disabilities.
And families of victims are being denied the additional life insurance
benefits and associated tax relief that they are due.
is wrong, and it requires our immediate attention. To that end, I am
currently drafting legislation that would make the Fort Hood victims
and their families eligible for all the honors and benefits available
to their comrades serving in overseas combat zones.
not completely without precedent. After the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks, the Department of Defense awarded the Purple Heart to victims in
uniform and the Medal for the Defense of Freedom to their civilian
colleagues. The Fort Hood victims deserve equal
Looking forward, I am optimistic that my legislation will garner broad,
bipartisan support and be adopted in the upcoming defense authorization
bill. There is nothing remotely political about this issue. It�s about
honoring the victims and providing assistance to them and their loved
We are a nation at war, and the location in which our
men and women in uniform come under hostile fire should not unduly
prejudice them and their families from receiving the full honors,
recognition and benefits associated with their courageous
As a country, we have a sacred obligation to take care of those among
us who are willing to put themselves in harm�s way so that the rest
of us can live free and peaceful lives. We must not let them