An off-duty Army serviceman is being celebrated as a hero after he saved the lives of several children during Saturday’s deadly mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, but the soldier says he doesn’t want the world to focus on him.
“What I did was exactly what I 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,” U.S. Army soldier Glendon Oakley said Sunday, before breaking down in tears. “I’m just focused on the kids that I could not [save] and the families. It hurts me. I feel like they were a part of me. I don’t even know the people that died or the kids that I took with me.”
Oakley, a 22-year-old automated logistical specialist stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, was shopping at the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso on Saturday morning when a young child ran up to him, saying there was a shooter at the nearby Walmart. Oakley said he didn’t take the boy’s claims seriously at first, but knew it was real when he began to hear gunfire. He said he immediately went into combat mode and began to grab as many children as he could to get them out of harm’s way.
“I did that because that’s what I was trained to do. That is what the military has taught me to do,” he told reporters Sunday. “But I really want you guys to focus on the people that are actually grieving through this. Yes, I’m grieving, but I’m not the one that lost a family member. Yes, it feels like I have lost one. But they are the ones that need to be the [focus].”
Oakley refused to offer details about the “tragic” scene he witnessed, but he called it “the worst thing” he’s ever seen.
“I’m not describing anything,” he said. “I didn’t get any sleep last night. I don’t want to think about what happened because it was tragic. I’m telling you this was the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my life. And I don’t want to keep having flashbacks of what happened.”
“I don’t I don’t want to talk about what went on there because I just want to forget about it all. I just want to focus on the people that lost their loved ones…I’m already suffering from this. I don’t want to continue to suffer from it,” he added.
At least 20 people were killed and 26 others were injured in the El Paso Walmart shooting, making it one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history. The youngest victim was 2 years old.
The suspected gunman, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, of Allen, Texas, was being held on a charge of capital murder, court records show.
The shooting is being investigates as domestic terrorism.