A new report by National Public Radio found that at least 27, or nearly 20%, of the more than 140 people facing charges over their alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol were veterans or active members of the military.
NPR reached its conclusion after reviewing military records, social media accounts, court documents and news reports of the individuals facing federal or District of Columbia charges in connection with the Jan. 6 events. By comparison, military veterans make up just 7% of the American adult population overall, according to U.S. census data.
Task & Purpose has reported on several of the veterans charged so far, including retired Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Brock, Jr., Army reserve sergeant and Navy contractor Timothy Louis Hale-Cusanelli, Marine veteran and Virginia National Guardsman Jacob Fracker, Army veteran Thomas Robertson, Army veteran Gabriel Augustin Garcia and others.
Combatting extremism is a top priority for newly-confirmed Secretary of Defense and retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, who vowed “to rid our ranks of racists and extremists.”
“The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies,” he told senators at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday. “But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.”
An actual plan to do that would be welcomed by experts, who called the military’s efforts to combat extremism so far “haphazad.”
“Not only does there need to be training, but there also need to be clear expectations coming down from on high about what you should do when you encounter an extremist in your unit, at your base or whatever the circumstances are, and that here are the procedures that need to be followed,” Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told NPR.
A 2019 survey conducted by Military Times and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University found that 36% of active-duty troops who responded have seen evidence of white supremacist and racist ideologies in the military, such as racist language and discriminatory attitudes, swastikas drawn on service member’s cars, tattoos affiliated with white supremacist groups, Ku Klux Klan stickers, and Nazi-style salutes.
Still, Pitcavage cautioned NPR that there is little evidence military veterans are more susceptible to extremist ideology than other groups of Americans. “Overall, our veteran population is largely reflective of our general population,” he said.
That’s true: because despite how many veterans have been arrested for storming the U.S. Capitol, there were also many fighting to keep them back. Their ranks include Air Force veteran and U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed trying to hold back rioters from entering the building; Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) a former Army Ranger who helped his fellow lawmakers keep calm in the chaos; and Eugene Goodman, an Army veteran and Capitol Police Officer who lured a crowd of angry rioters away from the Senate chambers after they breached the Capitol building.
Goodman was promoted to acting deputy Senate sergeant at arms, and he served as an escort to Vice President Kamala Harris during the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
Featured image – Members of the far-right group Proud Boys make ‘OK’ hand gestures indicating “white power” as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building to protest against the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. (REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)
David Roza covers the Air Force and Space Force at Task & Purpose. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org