Violent extremism among current and former military members is relatively minor, but the problem is growing, lawmakers heard at a Thursday hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Committee Chair Mark Takano (D-Calif.) said that “from 1990 through 2021, domestic violent extremist attacks by veterans and active-duty service members killed more than 300 people and injured nearly 2,000 more.”
He listed such incidents as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and mass shootings in Wisconsin, Kansas and Florida.
During that time, only 12% of the people convicted of crimes linked to violent extremism had ties to the military. Most of those individuals were veterans.
But the numbers are going up. An average of 29 service members have been convicted in such crimes each year of the past decade, compared to seven each year over the previous two decades, according to Bill Braniff, director of the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, or START, CQ reported.
“This is a national security issue,” Braniff said. “We have to put a prevention ecosystem in place before the numbers continue to rise.”
A former Kentucky Army National Guardsman, Christopher Buckley, testified about how the Ku Klux Klan reached out to provide community and support after his time in Afghanistan, as Military.com reported.
“I wanted to blame others,” he said. “I wanted to remain an angry victim rather than take responsibility for my own actions. And I wanted a quick fix to numb my pains right then and there.”
Buckley has since left the group and works to keep other veterans away from similar groups.
“We need to prepare our troops not only for being soldiers, but also for civilian life,” Buckley said.
DOD held an extremism standdown last year and has established a working group that’s looking into the issue.
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell