We salute these military veterans who stood up to rioters on Capitol Hill
“My job is to protect and serve."
When rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6 after a post-election rally to support President Donald Trump devolved into a riot, the news cycle was flooded with photos and footage most viewers never expected to see.
Last week’s events left five dead, many injured, and have placed the nation’s capital and much of the country on edge. But in spite of it all, there were heroes in the halls of Congress that day, some of whom were veterans who never forgot the oath they swore to uphold and defend the Constitution.
Task & Purpose salutes those individuals who displayed the same courage and dedication to duty out of uniform as was expected of them while in it.
Officer Brian Sicknick (Air Force)
Some gave all, and Brian Sicknick was one of them. A six-year veteran of the New Jersey Air National Guard, Sicknick was serving with the U.S. Capitol Police when rioters charged the building, overwhelming the police line, The Associated Press reported. One of them threw a fire extinguisher, striking the officer’s helmeted head. The 42-year-old officer was fine at first, texting his brother Ken that he had been pepper-sprayed twice but was in good shape, ProPublica reported. But later he collapsed in the Capitol and had to be taken to a hospital.
The family got word that Sicknick had a blood clot and a stroke and was put on a ventilator before his death last Thursday night. Sicknick has the support of the Secretary of the Army to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia for his sacrifice.
“He spent his life trying to help other people,” the officer’s eldest brother told ProPublica. “This political climate got my brother killed.”
While serving in the Air National Guard, Sicknick deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Southern Watch in 1999 and to Kyrgyzstan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003. He was honorably discharged from the service in 2003. However, his lifelong dream was to become a police officer, ProPublica reported. Sicknick joined the U.S. Capitol Police in July 2008, where he most recently served with the department’s first responder unit.
“Please honor Brian’s life and service and respect our privacy while we move forward in doing the same,” the family said in a statement. “Brian is a hero and that is what we would like people to remember.”
Officer Eugene Goodman (Army)
When it comes to keeping cool under pressure, few can top Army veteran and Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, 40, who lured a crowd of angry rioters away from the Senate chambers after they breached the Capitol building. A former infantryman who deployed to Iraq in 2005 with the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Goodman made a series of on-the-fly decisions to keep the mostly-white crowd focused on him, a Black man, as he steered them away from federal lawmakers at a critical moment.
“I don’t know that many people who can think on their feet like that,” an anonymous fellow Capitol Police officer told The Washington Post. “His quick thinking enabled those senators to get to safety.”
Kirk Burkhalter, a New York Law School professor and a former New York City police officer, identified at least three tasks simultaneously in a video of Goodman at the riots: The officer led rioters away from the Senate chambers; coordinated with backup on the second-flood landing; and exercised extreme restraint to prevent injury or loss of life, he told The Washington Post. Friends of Goodman were not surprised by his heroics.
“I’ve always said, if bullets start ripping through, I’m finding Goodman,” a friend of his told The Washington Post. “He’s been in hostile firefights, so he knows how to keep his head.”
Goodman left the Army as a sergeant in 2006 with medals such as the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
“My job is to protect and serve,” he told co-workers after the video of him went viral, according to The Washington Post. “And on that day, I was protecting.”
Rep. Jason Crow (Army)
Capitol Police officers weren’t the only veterans who stepped up last week. It had been over a decade since Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a former Army Ranger, had seen combat, but when he and fellow lawmakers were trapped inside the House chamber, he got to work helping others put their emergency masks on, locking doors to the chamber, and removing lawmaker’s lapel pins so they wouldn’t be identifiable in case the mob broke through.
“I had a pen in my pocket that I could use as a weapon, I was looking for other weapons as well and I was coordinating with the capitol police to try to find a way out to for us,” Crow told CNN the next morning.
Crow joined the Army after 9/11, and he earned a Bronze Star in combat while leading a platoon of paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, according to his campaign website. Specifically, Crow’s platoon was charged with leading the way to secure a bridge over the Euphrates River heading towards the city of As Samawah.
“My platoon was ordered to the front to take the lead in the mission, and after some pretty heavy street-to-street fighting, my platoon ended up pushing all the way to bridge,” he said in 2018, according to The Denver Post.
After returning from Iraq, he joined the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment and served two more tours in Afghanistan as part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force, Crow wrote on his campaign website. He also served on the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs from 2009 to 2014, according to the Sentinel Colorado.
“Frankly, I’m pretty angry right now,” he told CBS after the riots. “I’m angry about the traitors who stormed the Capitol.”
Rep. Ruben Gallego (Marines)
Crow wasn’t the only legislator who took action: Marine veteran turned-congressman Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) was reminded of the Marine Corps gas chamber when Capitol Police fired chemical irritants at rioters, The Washington Post reported. The Iraq War vet calmed down fellow lawmakers and explained how the gas masks worked, then he took off his jacket and prepared for the rioters.
“I thought I’d have to fight my way out,” he told The Washington Post.
Gallego saw some of the worst fighting of the Iraq War when he and his unit, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines deployed there in 2005. His company lost 22 Marines and a Navy Corpsman to enemy action over an eight month period, according to his House biography.
“Fuck you we are,” Gallego tweeted after the riots last week, in response to a tweet from a Republican official saying that Congress was adjourned and calling for the presidential election to be re-held.
“Democracy will not die tonight,” Gallego added.
This is a developing story and this article will be updated as more details emerge from the riots.