WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin thanked National Guard troops Monday as he ended their deployment to the U.S. Capitol following the deadly January 6 insurrection.
“These airmen and soldiers protected not only the grounds, but the lawmakers working on those grounds, ensuring the people’s business could continue unabated. They lived out in very tangible ways the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution,” Austin wrote in a statement, recounting their five month deployment.
“They came here from all 54 states and territories, leaving behind jobs, homes and families, to bolster security at the Capitol in the wake of the dramatic events on January 6th. Many of them volunteered for this duty, and most of them did so on little notice,” he added.
The breach of the Capitol on January 6 delayed the formal congressional count of Biden’s 2020 election victory over then-President Donald Trump. Dozens of Republicans in Congress, backed by the president, challenged state results based on unfounded accusations of widespread fraud.
Earlier that day, Trump told thousands of supporters at a rally outside the White House to march to the Capitol to protest what historically have been ceremonial proceedings.
Hours after rioters swarmed the building, Trump told his supporters to “go home” — even as he reiterated the election lies that prompted them to attack the Capitol in the first place.
The number of troops deployed to the Capitol swelled to 25,000 ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
It is typical for the National Guard to be present for inaugurations, and more than 7,000 troops were mobilized for Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
“It’s been a trying but telling year for the National Guard,” Austin wrote. “Between natural disasters, civil unrest and an ongoing pandemic, our Guardsmen and women have been tested time and time again,” he added.