The Marine recruiter who was shot in the leg during the July 16 terrorist attack in Chattanooga will accept a Purple Heart during a Jan. 26 ceremony, a spokesman for the U.S. Marine Corps confirmed Wednesday.
Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley was wounded when 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire on a recruiting center on Lee Highway on July 16. Abdulazeez went on to attack the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway, where he killed four Marines and mortally wounded a U.S. Navy sailor.
On that day, Cheeley initially thought he'd been cut by glass and was still struggling to wrap his head around the reality even hours after a team of doctors confirmed the injury was a gunshot wound.
"I was still in disbelief until when I got home that night," he said during an August interview. "I saw the hole in the back of my shorts. And then I was like, 'OK, I guess I really did get shot.' And that was that."
Cheeley could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and the time and location of the Jan. 26 ceremony to give the award to Cheeley was not immediately available. The ceremony will take place just over six months after the attack.
The Marine Corps announced in December Cheeley and all five men who died will be awarded Purple Hearts. That announcement came the same day the director of the FBI officially said Abdulazeez was "inspired and motivated by" a foreign terrorist organization — a move that cleared the way for the award.
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.
Both politicians and military leaders previously praised the FBI's "terrorism" designation and the Navy's decision to award the Purple Hearts.
"Although the Purple Heart can never possibly replace this brave sailor and these brave Marines, it is my hope that as their families and the entire Department of the Navy team continue to mourn their loss, these awards provide some small measure of solace," Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said when the decision was announced in December. "Their heroism and service to our nation will be remembered always."
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