What happened in El Paso and Dayton over the weekend was tragic. It has spawned another round of intense debate on social media, but one thing we can all agree on is how we feel about this gentleman’s story. There is an old quote from Mister Rogers I always reflect on during tragedy. “Look For the helpers.” While that is applicable to off-duty Army serviceman Glendon Oakley, I’ll take it a step further and call him a hero.
“What I did was exactly what I was supposed to do. I understand it was heroic and I’m looked at as a hero for it, but that wasn’t the reason for me,” he said Sunday, before breaking down in tears. “I’m just focused on the kids that I could not [save] and the families. It hurts me. I feel like they were a part of me. I don’t even know the people that died or the kids that I took with me.”
This hero is a 22-year old stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. He works as an automated logistical specialist and was shopping at the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso when chaos broke out Saturday morning. He knew something was wrong when a young child ran up to him, saying there was a shooter at the nearby Walmart. At first, he dismissed the boy, but then heard the gunfire for himself. He went into combat mode immediately and started grabbing as many children as he could, helping them to a safe place out of threat of danger.
Oakley said he didn’t take the boy’s claims seriously at first, but knew it was real when he began to hear gunfire. He said he immediately went into combat mode and began to grab as many children as he could to get them out of harm’s way.
“I did that because that’s what I was trained to do. That is what the military has taught me to do,” he told reporters Sunday. “But I really want you guys to focus on the people that are actually grieving through this. Yes, I’m grieving, but I’m not the one that lost a family member. Yes, it feels like I have lost one. But they are the ones that need to be the [focus].”
He refused to go into detail, but said it was “the worst thing” he’s ever seen.
“I’m not describing anything,” he said. “I didn’t get any sleep last night. I don’t want to think about what happened because it was tragic. I’m telling you this was the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my life. And I don’t want to keep having flashbacks of what happened.”
“I don’t I don’t want to talk about what went on there because I just want to forget about it all. I just want to focus on the people that lost their loved ones…I’m already suffering from this. I don’t want to continue to suffer from it,” he added.
At least 20 people were killed and 26 others were injured in the El Paso Walmart shooting, making it one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history. The youngest victim was 2 years old.
The suspected gunman is being held on a charge of capital murder, court records show and the shooting is being investigated as domestic terrorism.
But in the face of darkness and pure terror, Glendon Oakley ran towards the evil to save lives. He is a true hero!