National Guard Mission Ends on Capitol Hill

May 24, 2021 by Dan McCue
(Photo by Sgt. Priscilla Desormeaux National Guard Bureau)

WASHINGTON- Five months after being deployed to the U.S. Capitol to help fend off rioters during the Jan. 6 siege by violent supporters of former President Donald Trump, National Guard troops have packed up and are heading home.

The guard’s mission formally ended Sunday, and nearly all of the 2,149 troops were expected to have left Capitol Hill by late Monday afternoon. They are turning over security of the area to the U.S. Capitol Police.

“The National Guard are American heroes and defenders of democracy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a written statement. “Their presence in our temple of democracy following January 6th, one of the most harrowing and horrific days in our history, has brought security, safety and healing to the Congress and indeed the country.  The United States Congress is profoundly grateful for their selfless service.”

Speaking on the Senate floor on Monday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “Aspects of the Guard’s presence here were not fleshed out as clearly or coherently as either Congress or servicemembers deserved. And members of Congress will continue to discuss and debate whether it is appropriate for uniformed military personnel to play an ongoing role in policing the United States Capitol going forward.

“But where Senators are absolutely, 100% united is in our great admiration and appreciation of the individual men and women who have volunteered to serve in the National Guard, who’ve put on the uniform, and whose orders brought them here to the Capitol complex,” he said.

McConnell noted that he had gotten to meet and talk with several groups of the men and women of the Kentucky National Guard during this time.

“Thank you all, from all 50 states, for your patriotism and service,” he said.

The Guard also got a thank you from President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

“We want to offer our deepest thanks and enduring gratitude to the women and men of our National Guard for their service to keep the U.S. Capitol Building secure over the past nearly five months,” the president and first lady said in a joint statement. “Since the insurrection on January 6, thousands of proud service members, from states and territories all across our Union, have stood watch over the citadel of our democracy. As they return now to their homes and families, we salute each of them for their commitment to country.

“When duty calls, our National Guard members put their lives on hold to stand as a shield and a support when their country is in need. We’ve asked so much of our Guard over the past year, not only defending our Capitol, but supporting our fight against COVID-19, responding to storm damage and wildfires, and deploying internationally to support peacekeeping missions,” the Biden’s said, adding, “The Biden family is a National Guard family, and we are forever grateful and in awe of those who, like our son Beau, understand that duty and service to others is what makes us who we are as Americans. To all the National Guard members and their families who sacrifice so much for our country, like all our service members: we owe you and we will always have your backs.”

The Guard’s departure came as Democrats and Republicans inside the Capitol continued to disagree over how to fund fortifications of the Capitol and whether to form an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the attack that sought to overturn former President Donald Trump’s loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

“It is imperative that Congress continues to take action to honor the sacrifice of law enforcement and to protect the Capitol and ensure that an attack can never again be perpetrated against it,” Pelosi said.  “Now that the House has passed bills to establish an independent bipartisan January 6th Commission and to fund additional security for the Capitol, the Senate must act.  There is no time to waste or room for partisanship in keeping our Capitol and country safe.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who oversaw a security review in the wake of the rioting, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the Capitol complex will remain closed to the general public because of the strain on the police force.

“God bless the National Guard,” Honore said. “They’ve done significant work.”

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