WASHINGTON -- Two soldiers shot outside an Army recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark., in 2009 will receive Purple Hearts, members of Congress said Thursday.
Pvt. William Long was killed and Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula was wounded when a man opposing the killing of Muslims by the U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan opened fire on the center.
The decision by the Army comes after victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting received the medal on April 10. The medal is given to servicemembers wounded in combat.
"The Army's decision to award the Purple Heart to the victims of the Little Rock Recruiting Center attack is long overdue," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said in a released statement. "I am pleased these two young men will finally get the recognition they deserve."
The borderless U.S. war against Islamic terrorism has redefined the traditional battlefield as well as the combat medal. Legislation within the annual defense passed in December amended the Purple Heart criteria to include wounds that are inflicted by those in contact with and inspired by terrorist groups.
Cotton along with Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., urged Army Secretary John McHugh to award the two soldiers, saying that the attacker Abdulhakim Muhammad had said during his trial that he was waging jihad against the U.S. and there was proof the shooter had met with al-Qaida. Muhammad pleaded guilty to the killings and was sentenced to life in prison in 2011.
The lawmakers said Long and Ezeagwula were targeted because they were wearing Army uniforms. Muhammad opened fire from his truck as the two soldiers were standing outside the recruiting station and was arrested a short time later nearby.
"They were targeted for the service, devotion and dedication to our country in a war where the front lines against terrorism extend within our nation," Boozman said in a release.