Five months after the shooting rampage at two military centers here in Chattanooga, the U.S. Navy is announcing it will award Purple Hearts to service members who were wounded or killed.
On July 16th, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire at a recruiting office and a U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center, killing four Marines and wounding one sailor who later died. The FBI said Abdulazeez was a homegrown violent extremist, but didn’t officially link the rampage to terrorism, which is why Purple Hearts were not initially awarded.
Now the Secretary of the Navy says investigators have determined the attack was inspired by a foreign terrorist group. All five service members who were killed and one other who was wounded will receive the medals.
"On July 16th of this year, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire D. 'Skip' Wells, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith were killed and Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley was injured during a tragic and senseless attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee," Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced in a prepared statement released today.
"Following an extensive investigation, the FBI and NCIS have determined that this attack was inspired by a foreign terrorist group, the final criteria required for awarding the Purple Heart to this Sailor and these Marines. This determination allows the Department of the Navy to move forward with the award of the Purple Heart to the families of the five heroes who were victims of this terrorist attack, as well as to the surviving hero, Sgt. Cheeley."
Congressman Chuck Fleischmann released a statement in response:
Just hours after the FBI Director designated the Chattanooga shootings as terrorism the Secretary of the Navy has announced that the victims of those attacks will receive the Purple Heart. Following the announcement Congressman Fleischmann made the following statement.
“Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire D. "Skip" Wells, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith were killed and Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley was injured five months ago today during an act of terrorism in our great city of Chattanooga. Today, they are receiving the Purple Heart in recognition of their bravery and service. These young men exemplify the best of our nation and their service will always be remembered.”
U.S. Senator Bob Corker released a statement as well:
U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today applauded the announcement by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus that the Department of the Navy will award the Purple Heart to the four Marines and one Sailor killed and the Marine injured during the July 16 terrorist attack in Chattanooga, Tenn. The decision followed an announcement by the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that the killer was inspired by a foreign terror organization.
“The men we lost - and those who were wounded - on July 16 in the deadly terror attack in Chattanooga exemplify the very best that America has to offer, and I am pleased to learn they will be awarded the Purple Heart,” said Corker. “Our commander-in-chief has classified the heartbreaking events that took place that day as an act of terror, and I have been pressing the FBI to provide answers to both the families of the fallen and our community. I appreciate the efforts of all involved as they work tirelessly to piece together this puzzle so we can better protect ourselves in the future. The threat of terrorism is not just something we see across our shores anymore; it’s here in our homeland; it hit my hometown; and we must continue to show resolve in the fight against this evil.”