Respondents to an American Legion online poll last week were sharply divided about whether Purple Hearts should be issued to victims of the Nov. 5 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.
In less than four days, nearly 9,000 votes were tallied in the poll, which was delivered last Thursday to more than 197,000 subscribers of The American Legion Online Update, a weekly e-newsletter. The question - "Should the victims of the Fort Hood shooting receive the Purple Heart?" - drew an all-time record for number of responses in the "Big Q", a weekly poll that asks a question pertaining to a hot topic in the military community.
Forty-four percent (3,826 as of Nov. 23) of the votes opposed issuing the medals "because the Purple Heart should only be awarded for those wounded on the field of battle in a combat theater."
Thirty-six percent (3,094) voted that the victims deserve Purple Hearts "because they were victims of an enemy attack in the war on terror." Another 15 percent (1,309) supported Purple Hearts for the Fort Hood victims as an exception to standard policy for the prestigious medal, which is awarded for battle wounds received in a combat theater.
Visitors of The American Legion Burn Pit blog site  weighed in on the issue. "I think we all need to come to terms that this was a terroristic attack," one commenter wrote on the site. "We are charged with defending the United States against all enemies ... foreign and domestic. This one just happened to be a domestic enemy within our ranks who committed an act of terror."
Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, a Fort Hood Army psychiatrist who went on a shooting rampage that left 13 dead, is paralyzed from the chest down after receiving gunshot wounds during the Nov. 5 attack. He will remain confined until his court-martial for 13 counts of pre-meditated murder.
Another contributor to the Burn Pit wrote that the 13 fatalities were victims "of a crime committed by one of their own who had severe mental issues. I think this would cheapen this medal down to a personal-award status (like a Good Conduct Medal) where whoever gets a papercut or splinter can whine and get one. Let us not undermine the intent of this award, based on a tugging of the heartstrings."
The issue continues to smolder in the Burn Pit blog site, which received more than 200 comments on the matter in just four days.
Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, introduced legislation last week that would make Fort Hood massacre victims eligible for benefits and honors - such as the Purple Heart - similar to those received by any U.S. servicemember killed or wounded by enemy attack in a combat zone. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who has described the Fort Hood attack as the worst terrorist assault on U.S. soil since 9/11, introduced companion legislation.