You know what’s really wild—albeit not super surprising to Black people—about the siege on the U.S. Capitol earlier this month? Those who took part in it weren’t just idiotic civilians; some were idiots who are also largely considered to be this nation’s heroes. It’s bad enough that cops and government officials were among those who participated in the white-nonsense rampage at the Capitol, but it looks like members and former members of America’s armed forces also represent a sizable portion of those formally accused of storming the building on Jan 6—and by “sizable,” I mean around one in five.
NPR compiled a list of individuals facing federal or District of Columbia charges in connection with the events of Jan. 6. Of more than 140 charged so far, a review of military records, social media accounts, court documents and news reports indicate at least 27 of those charged, or nearly 20%, have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. To put that number in perspective, only about 7% of all American adults are military veterans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Several veterans are charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. One of them is Larry Rendall Brock Jr. The Air Force veteran was photographed in a military-style helmet and tactical vest carrying flex cuffs inside the Capitol. He posted on Facebook that he was preparing for a “Second Civil War,” according to documents filed in federal court. In the weeks after Biden’s victory, Brock posted that “we are now under occupation by a hostile governing force.”
“I see no distinction between a group of Americans seizing power and governing with complete disregard to the Constitution and an invading force of Chinese communists accomplishing the same objective,” Brock wrote. (There is no credible evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.) He ended his post with a reference to the oath taken by members of the military: “Against all enemies foreign and domestic.”
Maaaan, listen: There’s a reason national defense officials felt the need to have the FBI screen the some 25,000 National Guard members assigned to secure the Capitol on Inauguration Day, and why that screening resulted in the removal of around a dozen of those guard members, mostly due to ideological affiliation. That isn’t to say that everyone in the military is a potential insurrectionist, but when an institution exists in a culture of jingoism and blind patriotism, it’s bound to produce its fair share of extremists.
In fact, NPR noted that federal prosecutors “have also alleged that multiple members of the right-wing extremist group the Oath Keepers took part in the ‘incursion’ at the Capitol,” and that the group routinely targets and recruits veterans and active-duty members of the military, some of whom are among those alleged to have been involved in the siege. Hell, it’s worth the reminder that Ashli Babbitt, one of the rioters who died for the non-cause, was an Air Force veteran.
A recently published survey conducted by the Military Times and Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families found that around one-third of active-duty troops said they have “personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism within the ranks in recent months.”
Again, none of it is particularly surprising, but it’s all troubling nonetheless. What happened at the Capitol weeks ago wasn’t specifically a military problem; it was an America-being-America problem. It’s only natural that this nation’s many flaws are often reflected in those tasked with defending it.