In the wake of shootings at two military centers in Tennessee, citizens in Texas stand guard at several military recruiting centers.
Military personnel on bases and in recruiting centers in the United States are not allowed to carry arms. Heavily armed citizens guarded the Navy recruiting center in Cleburne, Texas yesterday. They stood under tented canopies and posted handmade signs that read: “PROTECT OUR TROOPS.” The effort there has been named “Operation Hero Guard.”
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram videotaped the Hero Guard in Cleburne, and one of them said, “We are a band of brothers.”
The Longview News-Journal also reported that volunteers in Longview were standing guard outside a military recruiting office.
Oscar Still of Kilgore carried an AR-15 rifle outside of Longview’s Army recruiting office. Jacob, his armed 14-year-old son, accompanied him.
Still told the News-Journal, “These guys here [at the recruitment office] serve our country, to protect us, and yet they can’t protect themselves when they’re here.” He continued, “So, we’re here to protect the protectors, basically.”
He said, “If I can stop them or slow them down or whatever it takes, I’ll do all that I can.”
The men guarding the military recruiting center in downtown Cleburne told the Star-Telegram they would continue guarding as long as necessary. One of the men, Terry Jackson from Rio Vista, is an Army veteran with 15 years of service.
Others stationed at the Cleburne recruiting center started standing guard on Monday. The Star-Telegram said that Jerry Blakeney of Grandview, Army veteran Dean Damota of Cleburne, and Army veteran Ray Cram of Rio Vista joined them on Tuesday. Twenty-one-year-old National Guardsman Tyler Pinkston showed up later.
Jackson said of the shooting rampage in Tennessee, “That’s unacceptable. It was unacceptable for our soldiers, sailors, our men and women of the military to go over and serve and go into combat, and then to come back here to the homeland and be gunned down on their home duty stations. They were going to work for their families and not coming home.”
Grateful citizens brought the men water and food. Joel Victory gave them drinks gathered from his office. Victory told the Star-Telegram, “These gentlemen are up there, completely unarmed, and there are idiots out there,” he said. “Thank God for people like this, who are willing to come out here and protect people.”
As reported by ABC9 just 11 miles from Lufkin, a militia team has been standing guard at recruiting offices in Tyler. Jerry Pleasant, a retired senior chief of the U.S. Navy told the station, “You’ve got the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine recruiting offices here. He said, “They’re going to see who’s out here before they open the door.” Pleasant serves as the Commander of the 423rd Texas Light Foot Militia.
Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez shot a police officer and four Marines in Chattanooga last week when he pulled up in a silver Ford Mustang convertible and opened fire at the Lee Highway military recruiting center at a strip mall. He wore a vest loaded with ammunition and possessed two rifles or shotguns and a handgun.
Abdulazeez left the military recruiting center at the strip mall leading law enforcement officers on a police chase. He stopped at a Navy-Marine training center just a few miles away, where he continued his shooting spree.
The attacks left four Marines and a sailor dead. Law enforcement officers killed Abdulazeez.
A sign outside of the Lee Highway location in Tennessee featured a “no guns allowed” message. Guns are prohibited at federal facilities.
Those who died were Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan of Hampden, Massachusetts; Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt of Burke, North Carolina; Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist of Polk, Wisconsin; and Lance Cpl. Squire K. “Skip” Wells of Cobb County, Georgia. Sullivan, Wyatt and Holmquist had served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both, according to Breitbart news.
The seriously wounded sailor, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, later died from his injuries. Smith was a reservist serving on active duty at the Chattanooga center.
The suspect, 24-year-old Abdulazeez, graduated from the University of Tennessee in engineering and lived in Hixson, Tennessee. Hixson is just across the river from Chattanooga. Abdulazeez was born in Kuwait.
As reported by Breitbart News, Abdulazeez was arrested in April for driving while intoxicated. A mugshot of him showed him with a big beard. His neighbors and classmates described him as clean-shaven.
In May 2013, Abdulazeez was temporarily hired at the Perry nuclear power plant near Cleveland. He was let go 10 days later when he failed his background check. As reported by Breitbart News and the AP, a federal official said he was dismissed because he failed a drug test. He was never allowed in the protected area of the plant.
A U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity and said that Abdulazeez visited Jordan in 2014 for several months. His travels and those who he met with at the time are being evaluated as part of an investigation into ties with terrorism.
As reported by Breitbart News, Republican presidential candidate called President Obama out for refusing to use the term “Islamic terrorism.”
Trump appeared on Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor,” where he said it is “absolutely ridiculous” that the Marines in Tennessee were not allowed to carry guns. He said they were “just sitting there as targets.”
Trump added, “[W]e need intelligence. We don’t have intelligence in this country in so many different forms … This is one of them.”
After the shooting, Governor Greg Abbott issued an order authorizing those in the Texas National Guard and Texas Air National Guard to carry loaded weapons on duty.
In a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas, the Texas Governor said “It is with a heavy heart that I issue this order.” He continued, “After the recent shooting in Chattanooga, it has become clear that our military personnel must have the ability to defend themselves against these types of attacks on our own soil. Arming the National Guard at these bases will not only serve as a deterrent to anyone wishing to do harm to our service men and women, but will enable them to protect those living and working on the base.”
A retired senior NCO spoke to Breitbart Texas and said that prior to the governor’s order, all units maintained their own pistols, rifles, shotguns and heavy weapons, but very little ammo was placed in the armories. Moreover, for many years, the bolts for the rifles and machine guns were kept at the local police department or sheriff’s office in the property vault for safekeeping. This practice began in the 1930s when gangsters stole National Guard weapons and used them to rob banks.
The U.S. military does not allow servicemen and women to carry firearms on base on any federal reservations. This rule has remained the same in spite of the attacks at Fort Hood in 2009 by Major Nidal Hassan and in 2014 by Specialist Ivan Lopez-Lopez, and the Washington Navy Yard shooting in 2013. Those three attacks resulted in a total of 28 dead and 48 wounded.
This article has been updated with additional information.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2