An Army serviceman broke down in tears on Sunday while speaking to reporters about the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. Private First Class Glendon Oakley saved multiple children during the rampage and is now being hailed as a hero – but he doesn’t want the praise.
Oakley, who is stationed at nearby Fort Bliss, was at the mall when the shooting unfolded. He said a child ran to a nearby mall and told shoppers there was an active shooter at Walmart. At first, Oakley didn’t pay the child any mind, but as soon as heard two gunshots, he took the threat seriously.
“We run towards Dillard’s, and it’s like a play pen over there. I see a whole bunch of kids like, without their parents running around screaming and crying, so I grab as many as possible,” Oakley told CBS affiliate WMAZ-TV.
“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,” Oakley said. At least 20 people were killed and dozens injured in the shooting.
While speaking to CBS El Paso affiliate, KDBC the following day, Oakley said he was just doing what he was supposed to do. “I understand it was heroic and I’m looked at as a hero for it…but that wasn’t the reason for me.”
In that harrowing moment, he was thinking about the children and their parents. “So I just did what I would want another person to do for my children,” Oakley.
“I know what I did was heroic but I’m more focused on the families that were lost and the kids that died and the people that died,” Oakley said.
He said he had been getting countless phone calls since the shooting, but wanted the media to focus on victims.
“I’m more focused on the families that were lost. I want to reach out to the families that were lost and the families that lost their children,” he said, through tears.
While he didn’t know anyone he saved, he did not hesitate to jump in and help. “I did that because that is what I was trained to do,” Oakley said. “That is what the military has taught me to do, and that why I am thankful to be in the military and what they have taught me.”
Oakley doesn’t have any children of his own, but he has a goddaughter. “I protect her like she’s mine,” he said. “In times like this, don’t be scared to put others before yourself because that’s the way I was raised, to put others before myself,” he said.