Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
In a Friday letter addressed to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and acting Navy Secretary Thomas Moldy, Sens. March Rubio and Rick Scott stated that the Pentagon should consider the award to properly honor the “heroic actions” of the service members who sprang into action during the shooting.
“We share your sorrow for the loss of our three sailors and praise the action of others that quickly responded,” the senators wrote. “Through their heroism, these sailors nobly put their own lives at risk, preventing the terrorist from taking more lives.”
The Dec. 6 shooting, carried out by a Saudi military officer assigned to NAS Penscaola for training, left three service members dead and another eight wounded.
The Navy posthumously awarded aviator and aircrewman wings to the three fallen sailors for their “selfless acts of heroism” while trying to stop the shooting, as Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Daniel Dwyer said at the time.
While the Purple Heart is typically reserved for service members wounded in combat, Rubio and Scott argue that Attorney General William Barr designation of the shooting a “an act of terrorism” meets the standards laid out under U.S. law.
“In accordance with 10 U.S.C. 1129a, the Secretary shall consider Purple Heart eligibility to 'a member on active duty who was killed or wounded in an attack by a foreign terrorist organization in circumstances where the death or wound is the result… due to such member's status as a member of the armed forces,'” the senators wrote.
There's precedent for this: As Military Times notes the Navy awarded Purple Hearts to the four Marines and one sailor killed when a gunman opened fire at a Marine Corps recruiting station and Navy Reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation immediately designated that attack as an act of terrorism as well.
Rubio and Scott aren't just pushing for Purple Hearts. The two lawmakers are also encouraging the Pentagon to award the Navy Distinguished Civilian Medal to a base police officer wounded in the line of duty and the Secretary of Defense Medal of Freedom to the Escambia County Sheriff's deputies that responded to the incident.
“The brave service members and law enforcement personnel who risked their lives on that horrible day have the admiration and respect of the American people,” the senators wrote. “We encourage the Navy to honor their heroic actions by bestowing the appropriate civilian awards and the Purple Heart to those who so deserve it.”