US

Soldier Heroically Carried Kids To Safety During El Paso Shooting Knowing He ‘Easily Could’ve Been Shot’

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor

U.S. Army Private First Class Glendon Oakley carried kids out of harm’s way with no regard for his own safety as shots rang out Saturday at an El Paso mall.

Oakley was documenting the situation from the very beginning, saying in a tweet that he had been stuck in a Foot Locker but was ready to make a run for the parking lot. “God be with me, I’m not staying here. Pray for me,” he tweeted.

Once Oakley made it safely outside, he explained to MSNBC that he was a soldier and licensed to carry a firearm, so when he heard the shooting, he drew his weapon and made his way to safety. But he said that on his way, he saw kids who were scared and separated from their parents, and it never occurred to him not to stop and help them too.

Some noted that a good guy with a gun in an active shooting situation could easily be mistaken for the shooter, and Oakley conceded that he “easily could’ve been shot” but that he was “more worried about the kids.” (RELATED: 20 People Dead After El Paso Shooting, Governor Says)

As the news reports rolled in confirming that there were four children among the dead, Oakley lamented that he had not done more. “4 kids confirmed dead,” he tweeted. “I could’ve did more than I did.”

He credited the Army with instilling in him the values that drove him to respond in the way that he had. The Army core values, drilled by every soldier-in-training until they are second nature, are: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. While Oakley only mentioned “selfless service,” it was clear to the hundreds on Twitter thanking him for his bravery and kindness that he had exemplified all seven.

But Oakley is not taking his newfound status as a hero for granted. He told Task and Purpose following the shooting that, but for one recruiter who refused to give up on him, he might never have been allowed to put on the uniform.

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.”

The recruiter Oakley mentioned worked with him for two years through multiple waivers and finally sent him off to training in 2017. Shortly after completing training, he was deployed to Kuwait. He had been back at Fort Bliss for just a few months when he found himself at that Foot Locker in the Cielo Vista Mall.

Looking back on the day’s events, Oakley couldn’t help but note the adults who kept running — even when he had asked them for assistance in getting the kids to safety.

And he offered one piece of advice to anyone over the age of 21. “If you are 21 please take a class and get your license to carry … for situations like this,” he tweeted.