Meet the hero soldier who saved children's lives during the El Paso Walmart shooting

news

VIDEO: Army Pfc. Glendon Oakley saves children lives after mass shooting at the El Paso Walmart

(KTSM via CNN)

At first, Army Pfc. Glendon Oakley Jr. was completely unaware of the chaos unfolding just around the corner. Then he pulled his gun.

A 22-year-old Army automated logistics specialist assigned to the 504th Composite Supply Company, 142nd Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas, Oakley had been shopping at a sporting goods store inside the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso when a young child burst into the store shouting about an active shooter at the nearby Walmart.

"The guy at the register and I sort of looked at each other," Oakley told Task & Purpose in a phone interview on Saturday. "He's a little kid ... are you going to believe him?"

The threat was very real. At least 20 people were killed and dozens more wounded when a gunman opened fire at the Walmart, sending terrified bystanders fleeing through the neighboring mall.

When Oakley exited the store minutes later and headed to the neighboring Footlocker, he finally heard the sound of gunfire echoing across the mall. He immediately pulled the Glock 9mm he occaisionally carries under Texas's concealed carry laws. While he had just returned from an incident-free deployment to Kuwait, this was not his first firefight.

"That's what you do," he told Task & Purpose. "You pull your gun, you find cover, and you figure out what to do next."


Glendon Oakley Jr. (Courtesy photo)

Oakley was born into an Army family. His father, Glendon Oakley Sr., served for 31 years before retiring in 2011 at the rank of sergeant major; his mother, Wendolyn D. Oakley, retired as a master sergeant in 2001 after two decades; and his older sister, Glenda Oakley, is a retired captain.

But Oakley didn't take a direct path to the Army. Growing up in Killeen, Texas while his father was stationed at Fort Hood, he described his formative childhood years as "a little rough."

"I went to jail a few times, for weed charges, for fighting, just getting caught up in the wrong stuff," he told Task & Purpose. "I've been in pointless shootouts at a young age ... Killeen is a lot of pointless shootouts."

Oakley eventually moved to Macon, Georgia, where he met an Army recruiter who, over the span of several years, helped him put together the appropriate waivers to allow him to actually enlist.

"I had to get an ASVAB waiver, I had to get a tattoo waiver, everything ... even though my parents were in the Army, nobody would give me the time of day," he said. "There was one recruiter who didn't give up on me. For two years, he didn't give up."

Oakley finally went off to basic training in September 2017, plowing through Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training before he graduated around March 2018. A few months afterwards, he was deployed to Kuwait with the 504th.

His stay in Kuwait was "fine," Oakley said, although he felt he missed out on actually seeing combat.

"I wanted to go to Iraq so bad," he said. "I felt like it's in my blood."

Glendon Oakley Jr. returns home from his deployment to Kuwait in March 2019.(Courtesy photo)

Oakley had been home from Kuwait for just about four months when he found himself brandishing his Glock stuck in the Cielo Vista Mall Footlocker. A handful of employees had initially brought down the store's metal security gate, but they had decided to make a run for the mall exits. Oakley followed, an impromptu rear guard for the group.

The group quickly stumbled upon a group of a dozen children clustered in one of the mall's open play areas, screaming for their parents. Oakley says he tried to get fleeing bystanders to help, but none would stop.

"I didn't even think. I just grabbed as many kids as I could and ran five stores down to the exit," he said. "We got there and ran into a whole batch of police pointing their guns at us. I wasn't focused on myself, and I wasn't focused on my surroundings ... I was just focused on those kids."

In an interview with local television station KTSM outside the Cielo Vista Mall, Oakley was clearly shaken, the adrenaline pumping through his system. And when reached by Task & Purpose on Saturday, he said said that, despite his training, he was "scared for my life."

"I heard four kids died," he said, his voice softening. "I wish I could have gotten more kids out of there. I wish those guys who ran would have stayed ... I just think, what if that was my child? How would I want some other man to react?"

A pause: "I wish they had some sense of service."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Glenda Oakley retired as a first lieutenant. She retired as a captain.(8/4/2019; 12:29 am)

(DoD photo)

Five people have been indicted in federal court in the Western District of Texas on charges of participating in a scheme to steal millions of dollars from benefits reserved for military members, U.S. Department of Justice officials said Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
In this March 24, 2017, photo, bottles of hemp oil, or CBD, are for sale at the store Into The Mystic in Mission, Kansas. (Associated Press/The Kansas City Star/Allison Long)

Editor's Note: This article by Patricia Kime originally appeared onMilitary.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

As the military services each roll out new policies regarding hemp-derived products like cannabidiol, or CBD, the Defense Department is not mincing words.

"It's completely forbidden for use by any service member in any of the services at this point of time," said Patricia Deuster, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

The warning, along with the policies issued recently by the Air Force, Coast Guard and Department of the Navy, comes as CBD is becoming increasingly ubiquitous across the country in many forms, from coffee additives and vaping liquids to tinctures, candies and other foods, carrying promises of health benefits ranging from pain and anxiety relief to sleeping aids and inflammation reduction.

Read More Show Less

The Navy has fired five senior leaders so far in August – and the month isn't even over.

While the sea service is famous for instilling in officers that they are responsible for any wrongdoing by their sailors – whether they are aware of the infractions or not – the recent rash of firings is a lot, even for the Navy.

A Navy spokesman said there is no connection between any of the five officers relieved of command, adding that each relief is looked at separately.

Read More Show Less
Then-Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville. (U.S. Army/Spc. Matthew J. Marcellus)

After months of focusing on modernization priorities, Army leadership plans to tackle persisting personnel issues in the coming years.

Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Tuesday at an event with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that what people can to hear service leadership "talk a lot about ... our people. Investing in our people, so that they can reach their potential. ... We are a people organization."

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army/Pfc. Hubert D. Delany III)

Two U.S. military service members were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Resolute Support mission announced in a press release.

Their identities are being withheld pending notification of next of kin, the command added.

A total of 16 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan so far in 2019. Fourteen of those service members have died in combat including two service members killed in an apparent insider attack on July 29.

Two U.S. troops in Afghanistan have been killed in non-combat incidents and a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was declared dead after falling overboard while the ship was supporting operations in Afghanistan.

At least two defense contractors have also been killed in Afghanistan. One was a Navy veteran and the other had served in the Army.