Families of Four Marines Slain on July 16 Accept Purple Hearts

Vice President Joseph Biden speaks during a memorial service Aug. 15, 2015, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for the four Marines and sailor who died during a July 16 shooting. (Photo Sgt. Terry Brady)
Vice President Joseph Biden speaks during a memorial service Aug. 15, 2015, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for the four Marines and sailor who died during a July 16 shooting. (Photo Sgt. Terry Brady)

The families of the four Marines who were killed in Chattanooga during a terrorist attack on July 16 accepted Purple Hearts during a ceremony at the Hunter Museum on Wednesday.

The families of Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist and Lance Cpl. Skip Wells attended the ceremony, according to a release from the Marines.

The commanding general for the Marine Forces Reserve, Lt. Gen. Rex McMillian, presented the medals to the families. The Marines were members of Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division and Marine Forces Reserve, according to the release.

"They were my brothers," said Maj. Christopher Cotton, inspector-instructor for Mike Battery. "I can never thank them enough, I can never thank you enough for what they did."

The four Marines were killed when a 24-year-old gunman opened fire on the U.S. Naval Marine and Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway on July 16, 2015. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith was mortally wounded during the attack and died two days later.

Smith's family accepted the Purple Heart in January. Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley, who survived the attack but was shot in the leg at a recruiting center on Lee Highway, was also given the award earlier this year.

The Purple Heart is a combat award, but it can be given to members of the armed forces who are killed or wounded in domestic attacks -- if the attacks were inspired by foreign terrorist organizations.

It took months for investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to declare that the July 16 shooting in Chattanooga was a terrorist attack.

FBI Director James Comey finally said the attack was inspired by terrorist organizations in December 2015, on the five-month anniversary of the attack. That same day, the U.S. Navy announced that all five men who died would receive the award.

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