Sycamore Twp. father suing Pentagon, says son deserves Purple Heart

Sgt. Joshua Berry, died by suicide in 2013

SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- A local father is suing the Pentagon, saying his son -- who died by suicide in 2013 -- deserves a Purple Heart.

Howard Berry, father of Sgt. Joshua Berry, says his son deserves a Purple Heart "for injuries he sustained in the international terrorist attack at Fort Hood," according to the lawsuit.

Berry, who lives in Sycamore Township, is requesting judicial review of the agency who denied his son a Purple Heart -- namely, Ryan McCarthy, acting secretary of the U.S. Army, and James Mattis, secretary of defense.

Berry was stationed in Fort Hood when U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan opened fire and killed 13 people on Nov. 9, 2009. Berry was one of 30 people injured in the shooting.

Berry's shoulder was dislocated in the shooting when he dove for cover, according to the lawsuit. The shooting was classified as "attempted murder" by the Texas Rangers and the FBI.

The injury was classified as "sustained in the line of duty," the lawsuit said. Berry's shoulder was surgically repaired.

In May 2011, Berry was discharged due to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

In Feb. 2013, Berry killed himself in Sycamore Township.

The lawsuit said the circumstances of the shooting match the qualifications to be awarded a Purple Heart. Specifically, Joshua Berry was a member of the armed sources when he was injured, a documented wound caused by an "outside force or agent" and the wound was cause by a hostile act.

The lawsuit argues that the attack should be considered an international terror attack, as Hasan "admitted to being influenced by...a chief propogandist for al Qaeda." The shooting, however, was characterized as "workplace violence," the lawsuit said.

In addition, 47 other servicemembers injured in the Fort Hood attack were awarded Purple Hearts. A 2015 ruling changed law to broaden the eligibility rules for the Purple Heart; the change made those injured in the Fort Hood attack eligible for the medal.

In March 2015, the U.S. Army denied Howard Berry's application for his son's Purple Heart and said "the injury was not the result of enemy action and that Sgt. Berry was not in direct contact with Hasan." 

Berry then submitted a request to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records to update his son's military record to include more details of the shooting, injury, and Berry's death. According to the lawsuit, the panel agreed with Berry and said he should be awarded a Purple Heart.

“There is no question that (Joshua Berry)’s injury met the basic medical criteria for award of the Purple Heart," the panel said, according to the lawsuit. "All Department of the Army records of the individual concerned will be corrected by awarding (Berry) the (Purple Heart) for the injury he incurred on Nov. 5, 2009."

However, the Army Review Board rejected the panel's recommendation, the lawsuit said. "I find there is not sufficient evidence to grant relief. I have determined that the facts do not support a conclusion that (Berry)'s injury met the criteria for the Purple Heart."

In the lawsuit, Howard Berry requests a review of the U.S. Army that would result in a reversal of the decision about his son's Purple Heart, award him the medal, pay litigation costs and "grant...such other relief as the court deems just and proper."

Since his son's death, Howard Berry and his son's friend, fellow Army veteran Shawn Edmison, have worked to raise awareness of veteran suicide. In May, WCPO profiled the duo as they worked to place 660 American flags on hillsides in Greater Cincinnati to remind passersby of the 660 veterans who die by suicide each month.

Hank Minitrez, an Army public affairs officer, said Monday he could not comment on ongoing litigation but believed all of the qualifying victims of the Fort Hood attack had been honored with either the Purple Heart or its civilian equivalent, the Defense of Freedom medal. 

"The Army has not 'withheld' Purple Hearts from the victims of Nidal Hasan's attack," he wrote in an email. "Unlike other military decorations, which are awarded at the discretion of the approving official, Soldiers are entitled to award of the Purple Heart if they are killed or wounded in certain specific circumstances and meet the eligibility criteria."

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