Army Pfc. Glendon Oakley Jr. is used to being in combat.
But he could have never imagined it could happen in his own country. Oakley had been shopping at a sports store inside the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Saturday.
Suddenly a young child burst into the store shouting about an active shooter at the nearby Walmart.
“The guy at the register and I sort of looked at each other,” Oakley told Task & Purpose in a phone interview. “He’s a little kid … are you going to believe him?”
Sadly, the threat was very real.
As Oakley exited the store minutes later and headed to nearby Footlocker, he finally heard the sound of gunfire.
Suspect Patrick Crusius, 21, had opened fire at Walmart, sending terrified bystanders running for their lives.
Oakley immediately pulled out his Glock 9mm that he occasionally carries under Texas’s concealed carry laws.
“That’s what you do,” he told Task & Purpose. “You pull your gun, you find cover, and you figure out what to do next.” The 22-year-old had only been home from Kuwait for about four months.
Now he had his Glock in his hand stuck in the Cielo Vista Mall Footlocker. A handful of employees had initially brought down the store’s metal security gate.
But after a quick change of heart they decided to make a run for the mall exits. Oakley followed.
The group quickly soon stumbled upon a group of a dozen children.They were huddled together in one of the mall’s open play areas.
The terrified kids were screaming for their parents. Oakley says he tried to get fleeing bystanders to help, but none would stop.
“I didn’t even think. I just grabbed as many kids as I could and ran five stores down to the exit,” he said. “We got there and ran into a whole batch of police pointing their guns at us. I wasn’t focused on myself, and I wasn’t focused on my surroundings … I was just focused on those kids.”
Despite his training, Oakley admits he was “scared for his life.”
“I heard four kids died,” the brave hero said. “I wish I could have gotten more kids out of there. I wish those guys who ran would have stayed … I just think, what if that was my child? How would I want some other man to react?”
“I wish they had some sense of service.”
Oakley is an Army automated logistics specialist assigned to the 504th Composite Supply Company, 142nd Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas,
The current death toll from the El Paso shooting is now 22. Dozens more have been wounded.