Soldiers were especially concerned with being forced into a confined space during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, with limited bathroom access shared by at least 1000 Guardsmen.
A scandal is brewing after National Guardsmen in Washington who served to protect US President Joe Biden’s inauguration were forced to sleep in a cold garage, hours after being told to vacate the Capitol building on Thursday, December 21.
“Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” said a National Guardsman speaking to Politico.
“Leaving our families for the last 2 weeks to come down here… it’s certainly important and historic, but the day after inauguration you kick us literally to the curb? Come on, man.”— Haley Britzky (@halbritz) January 22, 2021
National Guardsmen sleep in parking garage following Biden inauguration https://t.co/aYTzqgXOfk
“It’s ****** up because it just shows how politicians really feel about the National Guard,” said a National Guardsmen speaking to military newspaper Task and Purpose. “Leaving our families for the last two weeks to come down here … it’s certainly important and historic, but the day after inauguration you kick us literally to the curb? Come on, man.”
After news reached lawmakers, National Guard personnel were relocated later that evening to a federal judiciary building. The guardsmen were removed from the capital after police assigned to the Capitol building ejected them due to “increased foot traffic” caused by Congress resuming sessions.
One soldier speaking to the Military Times says that even after the scandal broke, immediate concerns were to hide the Guardsmen, instead of taking care of them.
WHY is this OK with the American people?!?!?!? ?? National Guard soldiers booted out of Capitol, forced to sleep in parking garage https://t.co/4mqXUcltEZ— ??US Patriot (@5_0wifey) January 22, 2021
“We were in the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center parking garage and they kicked us out of that parking garage to make us walk half a mile away to the Hart Senate Office Building parking garage where we can’t be seen,” the soldier said anonymously, fearing reprisal because he wasn’t allowed to speak to media.
The soldiers were especially concerned with being forced into a confined space during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, with limited bathroom access. Nearly 100 troops have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to two National Guardsmen.
Soldiers took to social media to criticise the decision, saying they were moved without explanation and placed in a parking garage without heating or toilet facilities, and only one electric socket. One soldier described more than 1,000 soldiers using a temporary toilet outside the parking garage.
Other guardsmen described breathing in exhaust fumes due to cars using the garage.
Lawmakers were united in condemning the move, including Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and minority leader Kevin McCarthy. Some lawmakers offered their offices to house the guardsmen.
“This is unacceptable and must be fixed,” Democratic Senator Mark Kelly tweeted.
Discontent among guardsmen was already at a high, with the US Department of Defense revealing that 12 National Guardsmen were removed from duty after making social media posts construed as threatening to political leaders.
This comes after viral images spread on social media last week, as guardsmen protecting the capitol building were seen sleeping in hallways and on floors.
The oversight is likely to stoke resentment among US military personnel, with some describing feeling underappreciated by civilians and their elected governments.
This comes after an National Public Radio (NPR) analysis found that nearly 1 in 5 protestors who stormed the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, were veterans that had formerly served in the military.
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