DC Capitol Storming
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Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt survived stints in Iraq and Afghanistan, where she helped guard military bases at the peak of America's wars in those regions in the mid-to-late 2000s. Instead, she lost her life fighting her own government in the corridors of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 gunned down by a Capitol Police officer at the front of a crowd trying to smash toward the nearby House chamber and prevent the counting of 2020 Electoral College votes that would make Joe Biden president. Seconds before the fatal shot, a video captured her compatriots smashing a window and shouting, "We don't want to hurt no one, we just want to go inside."
Babbitt's death came at the end of what her friends and family described as a descent into a rabbit hole of right-wing extremism and conspiracy theories that began not long after her 14 years of military service ended, while she struggled to make it as the small-business owner of a pool cleaning service, which a sign proclaimed as "a mask-free zone" in the time of coronavirus. On the last full day of her life, Babbitt wrote on Twitter in the apocalyptic language of the QAnon conspiracy theory that believes a "Deep State" sex-trafficking cabal has corrupted America, proclaiming: "Nothing will stop us. They can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours ... dark to light!"
"My sister was 35 and served 14 years -- to me that's the majority of your conscious adult life," Babbitt's brother told the New York Times. "If you feel like you gave the majority of your life to your country and you're not being listened to, that is a hard pill to swallow. That's why she was upset."
Babbitt was far from the only disillusioned U.S. military vet drawn to the insurrection at the Capitol. She was joined by the likes of a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Larry Randall Brock Jr., who'd served as a flight commander in Afghanistan and now was captured on video on the floor of the U.S. Senate in a combat helmet and full tactical gear, carrying zip-tie handcuffs. Like Babbitt, friends said they watched Brock become increasingly radicalized in his support of Donald Trump and his political movement. Family members told the New Yorker's Ronan Farrow that the Air Force remained central to Brock's identity and, as one said, "He used to tell me that I only saw the world in shades of gray, and that the world was black and white."