WASHINGTON D.C. – Senate-passed legislation supporting funding for our nation’s military and our military installations includes a provision sponsored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that paves the way for servicemembers attacked outside of a Little Rock Army recruiting center in 2009 to receive the Purple Heart. Private William Long was shot and killed; Private Quinton Ezeagwula was wounded.
“This is righting a wrong that prevented Private Long and Private Ezeagwula from receiving a Purple Heart, which they rightfully deserve. They were victims of a terrorist attack, targeted for the service, devotion and dedication to our country. They deserve the same honors and recognitions as those members of the Armed Forces serving on the battlefield. The sad reality is the frontlines against terrorism extend within our nation. This provision allows all servicemembers the opportunity to be recognized for their service and sacrifice against the War on Terror,” Boozman said.
The provision included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes the award of Purple Heart to servicemembers killed or wounded in an attack that specifically targets a servicemember because of their status as a member of the nation’s Armed Forces or is carried out by a foreign terrorist organization. The Army will determine if attacks meet the qualifications. The House approved this bill last week and it will now head to the President for his signature.
Privates Long and Ezeagwula were attacked as act of domestic terrorism but the federal government declined to prosecute their attacker as a terrorist. American Muslim convert, 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.
Boozman has joined efforts for several years allowing Privates Long and Ezeagwula eligibility for the Purple Heart. In this Congress Boozman and U.S. Senator Mark Pryor introduced the Honoring Ezeagwula and Long (HEAL) Act to allow the soldiers to be eligible for the Purple Heart. The senators also secured a provision in the FY2014 NDAA directing the Department of Defense (DoD) to review the eligibility for a Purple Heart for Privates William and Ezeagwula.