WASHINGTON — Victims of the Fort Hood shooting are rallying in a grassroots effort to get the rampage classified as an act of terrorism.
A coalition of 160 victims and family members released a video Thursday detailing what happened at the Texas military base on Nov. 5, 2009, and why they believe it was a terror attack.
In “The Truth About Fort Hood,” victims give testimonials about their experience and express their frustration at the government calling the incident “workplace violence.”
They point out that the accused shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan, consulted by email with top al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki about whether an attack against American soldiers was justified to “protect our brothers.” Until his death in an airstrike in 2011, Yemen-based Awlaki was considered one of the United States’ top enemies.
The shooting for Hasan “was his jihad,” Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford, who was shot five times that day, said in the video.
Another victim, Shawn Manning, said that the soldiers at the readiness center “were killed and wounded by a domestic enemy, someone who was there that day to kill soldiers to prevent them from deploying. If that’s not an act of war or an act of terrorism, I don’t know what is.”
“We’re working pretty hard for our guys right now to get them the recognition and compensation they deserve,” said Kathy Stalnaker, whose husband has severe post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident. “We want to keep it in front of the public.”
Because the incident is not considered an act of terrorism, the victims do not get combat-related special compensation that provides disability pay for medically retired servicemembers. Manning, who was shot six times, was recently denied such benefits.
The victims are also ineligible for Purple Hearts or medals for valor.
Stalnaker said her husband, Sgt. Rex Stalnaker, feels diminished by the government denying he suffered through a terrorist attack, and it causes him to doubt the importance of what he did that day. As a medic, Stalnaker treated many of the victims and was one of the last to leave the building. His uniform was soaked in blood.
The coalition has the support of two Republican congressmen from Texas, who wrote a letter this month to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asking for the designation.
“Based on all the facts, it is inconceivable to us that the DoD and the Army continue to label this attack ‘workplace violence’ in spite of all the evidence that clearly proves the Fort Hood shooting was an act of terror,” Reps. John Carter and Michael McCaul wrote.
Should the government classify the shooting as terrorism, the victims and their families could be eligible for compensation and benefits similar to those received by families of 9/11 victims.
The congressmen believe Hasan, despite being known to colleagues as an unstable, radical Islamist, was promoted in the Army and not fully investigated after suspicious behavior because the military was afraid being seen as biased against his religion. They think that hesitancy is still at play in deciding what to call the shooting.
The Fort Hood victims “should not be ignored or mistreated now because of misplaced and inappropriate practice of political correctness,” the congressmen wrote.
Panetta’s office has not yet responded to the Oct. 12 letter.