Florida’s two U.S. senators are urging top Pentagon leaders to award Purple Hearts to service members wounded in the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola last month, and to award valor medals to the law enforcement officers who helped end the deadly attack.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and acting Navy Secretary Thomas Moldy, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott said the moves would properly recognize the “heroic actions” and sacrifice of those individuals.
“The brave service members and law enforcement personnel who risked their lives on that horrible day have the admiration and respect of the American people,” they wrote.
In an emailed statement to Military Times, NORTHCOM said it has directed its facilities and units “to immediately assess force protection measures and implement increased random security measures appropriate for their facilities.”
Three sailors were killed and eight others wounded on Dec. 6, 2019, when a Saudi trainee opened fire at the Florida base. A civilian base police officer and two Escambia County Sheriff’s deputies were injured when they responded to the scene, killing the gunman.
The incident prompted a military-wide review of training programs with foriegn military partners. Last week, Attorney General William Barr labeled the attack an act of terrorism motivated by “jihadist ideology.”
That distinction could allow injured troops to receive the Purple Heart, typically only granted for injuries sustained in combat situations. But military code allows for the award to be given in cases where “a member on active duty was killed or wounded in an attack by a foreign terrorist organization.”
Esper’s balancing act in Pensacola: showing support after shooting while encouraging training foreign allies
The defense secretary met with first responders six weeks after a shooting by a foreign military trainee left three service members dead and eight others injured.
In 2015, Navy officials awarded Purple Heart medals to four Marines and a sailor killed by a terrorist in Chattanooga, Tenn. Another Marine wounded in the shooting was given the award.
The lawmakers are also recommending the Navy Distinguished Civilian Medal with Valor to the base police officer who responded to the attack and the Secretary of Defense Medal of Freedom to the county deputies.
Defense officials announced last week that non-classroom training for foreign military allies can resume once military leaders met new safety conditions, including implementing a prohibition on the possession of firearms and ammunition by the international students and their families.