WASHINGTON D.C. –U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman today introduced the Honoring Ezeagwula and Long (HEAL) Act. Their bill would allow Private William Long and Private Quinton Ezeagwula, Arkansas service members attacked outside of a Little Rock Army recruiting center, to be eligible for the Purple Heart.
“Privates Long and Ezeagwula signed up to serve our country, and became targets of terrorism as a result. They deserve to be honored for their incredible sacrifice and service,” Pryor said. “I’m proud to help introduce the HEAL Act to correct this inequity and make them eligible for Purple Hearts. It’s time to right this wrong.”
“Private Long and Private Ezeagwula’s attacker was a terrorist. These soldiers were targeted for their service, dedication and devotion to our country and the war against terror. This legislation will provide them with the rightful recognition they deserve for their selfless sacrifice,” Boozman said.
Daris Long of Conway, Arkansas and the father of US Army Private William Long, testified during a joint Senate-House homeland security hearing on homegrown terrorism in 2011. He is disappointed with the actions taken by the Army. His son’s killer, Carlos Bledsoe, also known as Abdulhakim Muhammad, is serving a life sentence without the chance for parole after pleading guilty and admitting his motivation for the shootings stemmed from the United States’ presence in the Middle East. Bledsoe converted to Islam, became radicalized in Nashville, TN and travelled to Yemen in 2007 where he was arrested by Yemeni authorities in 2008. Following his deportation from Yemen in 2009, he attacked the Little Rock recruiting center, killing Long and wounding Ezeagwula.
Since federal charges were not filed against Muhammad, the Army did not recognize this case as an international terror attack. According to Army Regulations, in order to receive medals such as the Purple Heart, service members must be in either a combat zone or the victim of an international terror attack.
The Arkansas Senators first introduced the HEAL Act during the 112th Congress and introduced the bill as an amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).