A Golden Rule moment is revealed amid tragedy
Trying to understand the tragedies of El Paso and Dayton is beyond the realm of possibility for civil people of any society. A senseless act of reducing human life to being irrelevant in order to carry out retribution for a sick ideology or sudden recognition goes beyond the pale.
Nevertheless, it is often at these times, when these monsters reveal their capability of such human carnage, that others rise to show their humanity, empathy and selfless courage, genuine Golden Rule moments.
Here’s how it came about. On Saturday, Aug. 3, a white-supremacist terrorist shot and killed at least 22 people and injured many more at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
Private First Class Glendon Oakley Jr. is a 22-year-old automated-logistics specialist in the Army who recently returned from a deployment in Kuwait. He was shopping at a sporting-goods store near the Walmart looking for a jersey when a young boy burst into the store to inform them of an active shooter. At the time, Oakley wasn’t sure to believe him, but as he exited the store minutes later, he was immediately confronted with gunshots that rang out across the mall, interrupted by screams and masses of people running everywhere.
Among the terrified pandemonium of runners were young children without their parents, and that’s when Oakley kicked into action. As the owner of a concealed-carry license, Oakley pulled out his gun and was ready to bear down on the perpetrator when he saw a group of children stranded in one of the mall’s play areas. He gathered as many of them as he could in his arms and began to run away to safety as fast as he could.
“I was just focused on the kids. I wasn’t really worried about myself. So I just put my head down and just ran as fast as I could,” he said. “They were anxious when they were in my arms. They were trying to jump out of my arms, but I was trying to keep them as tight as possible. They are kids, so they don’t understand what is going on.”
At a press conference that he reluctantly gave the day after the shooting, Oakley did not want to focus on his heroic deeds but rather, he broke down and wept for the children he could not save. The Army private said he did only what he’d want others to do if his own child were in danger. What Private Oakley expressed was the principle of the Golden Rule.
Though he is being called a hero, Oakley insisted that the focus should not be on him.
“I really want you guys to focus on the people that are actually grieving through this,” he told reporters. “Yes, I’m grieving, but I’m not the one that lost a family member.”
As we attempt to understand the tragedies of these mass shootings, we all weep with Oakley as human reason fails us. These kind of tragedies are often complicated and hard to grasp, but heroism is a simple act. Oakley’s display of it is inspiring. We owe him our thanks. As someone said, “A man never stands taller than when he stoops to help a child.”
The Arizona Interfaith Movement, along with the Army, which has awarded him the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon, considers Oakley a Golden Rule Hero. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, PFC Glendon Oakley, for acting on your Golden Rule Moments!
The Rev. Larry Fultz is executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement.
Golden Rule Moments
Larry Fultz Guest columnist
PFC Glendon Oakley Jr. is a 22-year-old serviceman who recently returned from Kuwait. GLENDON OAKLEY