WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman and Mark Pryor today cosponsored legislation to award the Purple Heart to members of the Armed Forces who are wounded or killed during a terrorist act perpetrated within the United States. The legislation is retroactive to include two Arkansas soldiers who were denied Purple Hearts after they were shot outside an Army recruiting center in 2009. Private William Long was shot and killed; Private Quinton Ezeagwula was wounded.
“Private Long and Private Ezeagwula were targeted for their service, dedication and devotion to our country. They are victims of a terrorist attack and deserve the same recognition and honors as any troop that is killed or injured in the Global War on Terror. This is a commonsense approach to providing them with the rightful recognition they deserve for their service to this country,” Boozman said.
“The shootings outside the Little Rock recruiting center underscore that there are no front lines when it comes to terrorism,” Pryor said. “When a soldier signs up to serve and becomes a target of terrorism as a result, the least we can do is ensure he or she receives the proper honors and recognition. I’m proud to sign my name to this legislation, and will continue to advocate for the Long and Ezeagwula families until we right this wrong.”
The legislation, introduced today by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in the Senate and Representative Peter King (R-NY) in the House of Representatives, authorizes the award of the Purple Heart to service members killed or wounded in a terrorist attack within the United States. It expressly states that the shootings in Little Rock and Fort Hood, Texas are examples of the types of attacks intended to be included in this legislation. Lieberman and King chair the Senate and House of Representatives committees that oversee homeland security matters.
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 ether a combat zone or the victim of an international terror attack.