Texas law makers introduce bill to award Fort Hood shooting victims with benefits

Posted at 6:36 PM, Sep 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-03 08:28:22-04

Almost four years after the Fort Hood shooting, Texas legislators are confident that the honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act will be passed. 

"With the conviction and sentencing of this terrorist, justice has been served," said Senator John Cornyn.

"Get it done and over with so that benefits can be shared, the medals can be awarded, and we can give these battlefield warriors the recognition they deserve."

By calling the shooting an act of terror, and admitting the shooting could have been prevented, the bill will give victims added benefits. Some of those benefits include combat-related pay, maximum health coverage, and tax breaks after death in a combat zone.

"The battlefield is not in far off lands, like Afghanistan and Iraq, but here as well."

It will also give soldiers of the attack the Purple Heart medal. Civilians will receive the Purple Heart equivalent, the Secretary of Defense for the Defense of Freedom medals.

"The exact verbiage in awarding the Purple Heart comes as a result of an act of hostile foreign force," explained Leila Hunt-Willingham, the sister of fallen SPC Jason "JD" Hunt. "The victims of the Fort Hood shooting were unarmed and involved in hostile fire from an admitted enemy of the United States."

Former mayor of Killeen, and the city's mayor at the time of the Fort Hood shooting, Timothy Hancock agrees with Hunt-Willingham.

"The minute that individual decided to do what he did, he was no longer a soldier," said Hancock."

And now the men who represent Texas in Congress want the United States to call the shooting a terrorist attack.

"This administration's workplace violence designation clearly favors political correctness over truth and justice. Nobody in America thinks this was workplace violence," said Representative Roger Williams.

Despite the talk of the conviction of Nidal Hasan, family members and lawmakers joined each other in viewing the statues of the 13 killed.

"We need to recognize this and memorialize it forever, so it remains in our hearts and our minds," explained Representative John Carter. "These are the best of the best, and we've lost the best of the best, we need to memorialize them."

"I encourage people to find out more and see for themselves what an unbelievable tribute this will be," said Hunt-Willingham.

They say they are excited for Americans to be able to celebrate their heroes life the same way they do.

Hunt-Willingham tells News Channel 25's Markeya Thomas that they chose a greyhound for SPC Hunt's statue because they grew up on a greyhound farm in Oklahoma.

"He had a personal pet, one of the greyhounds that he took as his own named Rex. And when he deployed to Iraq, he was very concerned about Rex." 

She continued to say the greyhound is a testament to SPC Hunt's loving, tender nature, which greyhounds are known for.

Joleen Cahill and Keely Vanacker said they chose books and a cup of coffee for the only fallen civilian, Michael Cahill.

"My dad was truly a renaissance man. He loved to read and had a lot of hobbies," said Vanacker, Cahill's daughter.

Her mother, Joleen Cahill, added to her statement. "And he always had a cup of coffee with him, for the 37 years I knew him. It was always there."

The memorial, which is more than $100,000 short on funds, will give them a place to go to honor their loved ones.

"We want to go to a place where we can remember and memorialize our family, in addition to reminding everyone else what they sacrificed that day."

To donate to the memorial, visit the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.