A courageous serviceman is being called a hero this week after he saved the lives of multiple children during Saturday’s horrific shooting in El Paso, Texas.
Private First Class Glendon Oakley was walking through the Cielo Vista Mall, shopping for a jersey, when a child ran into the store and warned of an active shooter in the Walmart nearby.
“It was one child. He ran in and told us it was an active shooter in Walmart, but I didn’t pay any mind, because for one, he’s just a child, and for two, you’re inside the mall so how would you know it’s an active shooter?” he told KDBC. But soon after, the soldier heard gunfire.
Not stopping to think, Oakley ran towards the Dillard’s store with the others. However, once he got there he was met with a sight he didn’t expect.
“I see a whole bunch of kids like, without their parents running around screaming and crying,” Oakley told WMAZ-TV. “So I grab as many as possible.”
“Some of them were jumping out of my hands. I couldn’t do much for them, but the ones that I could keep with me, I made sure we made it safe to where we needed to be.”
“I try to get a couple of other people too, you know, grab other kids, but parents are so worried about themselves, they’re gone,” he said during the interview with WMAZ-TV.
The soldier carried three children to safety, according to WXIN.
During an interview, Oakley broke down, remembering the heartbreaking moments he spent at the scene.
“I’m looked at as a hero for it, but that wasn’t the reason for me,” he said. “I’m just focused on the kids that I could not get and the families that were lost. It hurts me, like I lost — like they were part of me.”
Commendations for Oakley’s actions poured in online during the aftermath of the devastating morning. Encouraged by his bravery and self-sacrifice in the face of so much chaos, many wrote to him online, thanking him for putting the lives of others above his own.
Oakley spoke about his military training, of the instincts to reach for his own weapon and save anyone he could.
“I understand what I did was heroic, but I did that because that’s what I was trained to do and that’s what the military has taught me to do,” he said.
But the soldier didn’t want praise.
“All I thought of is how I would want another man to react if I had a child and I wasn’t around my child at that time. So, I just did what I would want another person to do for my children,” he said.
While not a father himself, Oakley said that he has a goddaughter he thinks of and protects as if she belonged to him.
“I was just focused on the kids, I wasn’t really worried about myself,” he said. “So just put my head down and just ran as fast as I could.”
After everything that happened, Oakley says he hopes to connect with the families who lost loved ones that day.
“I want to reach out to the families that were lost and the families that lost their children because the focus should not be on me,” he said.
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