Two U.S. Army privates who were attacked outside of a Little Rock recruiting center in 2009 were awarded with Purple Hearts Wednesday. Military personnel, members of Arkansas's congressional delegation, families and other dignitaries gathered in the State Capitol Rotunda to honor them.
William Long of Conway and Quinton Ezeagwula of Jacksonville were shot by Abdulhakim Muhammed a native of Tennessee who had become a radical Islamist. Ezeagwula sustained injuries. Long died as a result of the gunfire. For six years, the servicemen's families and members of the Arkansas congressional delegation sought to make them eligible for the Purple Heart.
Long's father, Daris Long, said after the ceremony that the fight to have the two recognized involved many letters and calls.
"I was always in contact with our elected representatives, [saying,] don't let it slide, don't let it slide,” Daris Long said after the ceremony. William Long's parents were awarded the medal in his absence.
As a result, language was added to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, stating that members of the armed services may be awarded the Purple Heart if they are targeted specifically because they are U.S. military or if they are they targeted by a foreign terrorist organization.
“People forced this. People voted in Congress. People passed a law and told the Army, this is what we want,” Daris Long said. Still, he said he felt no sense of closure over his son's death.
In addition to the Long family, Ezeagwula, his family, and the father of Abdulhakim Muhammed, Melvin Bledsoe, attended the ceremony. Also attending were U.S. Senators John Boozman, Tom Cotton, U.S. Representative French Hill and Governor Asa Hutchinson.