Vietnam veteran called ‘hero’ for telling Baltimore rioters go home
While rioters rampaged through the streets of Baltimore Monday in a blaze of anger, defiance and despair, a Vietnam veteran waded into the middle of the chaos, ignored the bottles and bricks and rocks being hurled through the air and yelled at the hostile young crowd to go home.
A CNN reporter was standing nearby when Robert Valentine walked along a dark street and stood firmly with his back to a line of riot-gear clad police officers. Facing the rioters, he yelled “Go! Step your a– away!”
When CNN’s seemingly incredulous Joe Johns asked him who he was, Valentine responded,
“I’m just a soldier.”
Those words and his actions resonated on a day and night of unrest in an American city in which at least 20 officers and others were injured, looters raided then set 15 buildings ablaze, rioters destroyed nearly 150 cars and more than 200 people were arrested.
Asked why he took it upon himself to step up amid the danger, Valentine responded “I did 30 years, OK, came out a Master Sergeant. I’ve seen more than all this. I’ve been through the riots already. “
He went on to excoriate the young people participating in the destruction.
“They need to have their butts at home”
“They need to be in their home units with their families studying and doing something with their life. Not out here protesting about something that is not really about nothing.”
He said the rioters were not respecting the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who died after suffering severe spinal injuries while in police custody, and who had just been laid to rest hours before. His April 19 death has been the subject of peaceful demonstrations and multiple calls for reform for days.
“They do not respect this young man’s death,” Valentine. “You know. Now, mama and daddy lost a child. That could be them. So I’m very pissed.”
The soldier had one more thing to say before the cable network cut away to go to a news conference.
“I love my country. I love my Charm City. I’m an American,” he said.
“I’m not black, white, red, yellow or nothing. I am American.”
Valentine was not the only one whose actions caught on video won the public’s approval. This Baltimore woman, who waded into the melee and dragged her young son home was called by many ‘Mother of the year.”
Like her, Valentine spent just seconds on TV, but his minute and a half interview catapulted him into the public eye, where he was roundly called a hero.
On Twitter, you could say he received a standing ovation.
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