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.
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.”
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.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.