Soldier praised for heroic act at El Paso shooting: 'What I did was what I was supposed to do'

Justin Chan

A 22-year-old off-duty U.S. Army serviceman is being hailed a hero after he put his life at risk to save several children from a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, according to ABC News.

"What I did was what I was supposed to do," said Glendon Oakley, an automated logistical specialist stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. "I understand it was heroic and I'm looked at as a hero for it, but that wasn't the reason for me. 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 was reportedly shopping at Cielo Vista Mall when a child ran up to him and told him there was a shooter at a Walmart nearby. Oakley said that he was skeptical about the claim at first but came to his senses when he heard gunfire. That was when he found himself grabbing as many children as he could to get them to safety, he told ABC.

"I did that because that's what I was trained to do," he explained. "That is what the military has taught me to do. 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]."

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Oakley told reporters that the shooting, which left 22 dead and dozens injured, has scarred him.

"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."

Still, many have taken to Facebook to praise him for his courageous deed.

"Just want to say thank you, sir," one person wrote. "As a father who's buried his own child, THANK YOU. No parent should ever have to go through what I've been through so I just wanted to thank you for such selfless actions. You, sir, are a great man."

On Saturday, a gunman armed with a rifle opened fire in an El Paso shopping area before continuing his attack in a Walmart. Twenty-two people, including a couple who shielded their 2-month-old baby from the gunfire, died. Among the injured were a 2-year-old victim and a 77-year-old man who took a bullet for his wife.

Police apprehended the suspect, a 21-year-old white male from Allen, Texas. Federal authorities said they are now handling the shooting as a domestic terrorism case. Investigators are also determining whether to bring hate crime charges, after they discovered a racist, anti-immigrant post that may have been written by the alleged gunman.

The district attorney said that officials will seek the death penalty.