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Purple Hearts for war at home? Lawmakers eye changing criteria

Should the Pentagon be allowed to award Purple Hearts not only to service members in battle abroad but to those who are victims of terror attacks at home? Legislation announced on Wednesday would allow that, and it has strong backing from both parties.

"Military personnel here in the U.S. have become a target-of-choice for the Islamist terrorists we have battled since 9/11," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., one of the bill sponsors, said in a statement. "There have been at least 34 domestic terrorism threats, plots, or attacks against U.S. military communities since 2001."

"This bill provides a long-overdue update to the eligibility criteria for the Purple Heart that acknowledges the threat of domestic terrorism," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., the other bill sponsor.

Pentagon policy currently considers attacks on U.S. service members at home as criminal matters, not a hazard of combat.

One couple in the Washington D.C. area believes so strongly in the healing power of a getaway, they arrange free vacations for Purple Heart veterans. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

While the bill is not yet scheduled for a vote, NBC News' Luke Russert said it has "strong backing from a bipartisan group of legislators.

"If it were to go to the House or Senate floor it would most likely pass," he added.

King and Lieberman held a joint hearing last December on the terror threat to military communities in the U.S. In their statement Wednesday, they noted that testimony included that of Daris Long, whose son, Army Pvt. William Long, was killed in the 2009 attack on the Army's recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark. William Long was denied a Purple Heart. 

Later that year, 12 soldiers and one civilian were killed, as well as 32 people wounded, in the shooting attack at Fort Hood, Texas. None of the service members in that attack are currently eligible for a Purple Heart.

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