The National Guard member who died while stationed in Washington as part of a mission to protect the U.S. Capitol has been identified as 26-year-old Specialist Justin Grennell.
Grennell, a member of the New York Army National Guard, was pronounced dead in his hotel room by medical personnel on Thursday after he was found unresponsive by his roommate, according to a statement. His death is currently being investigated by the Washington D.C. Metro Police.
The 26-year-old was one of the 540 New York National Guard soldiers who were surged to the nation’s capital in January following the breach of the U.S. Capitol. Grenell joined the national guard in 2014 and has received multiple military awards for his service.
“All of us in the New York National Guard are deeply saddened by the death of this young Soldier. When our State and Nation called, he stepped forward and enlisted. Following the attack on our nation’s Capital on January 6th, he selflessly deployed to Washington, D.C. Our thoughts are with his family in this most trying time,” Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York, said in the statement.
This comes weeks after reports that National Guard members were fed poor quality food while stationed in Washington, causing some soldiers to become sick.
Some lawmakers have expressed concern over the well-being of military personnel, including Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.).
Bergman wrote to Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, in early March demanding answers over the concern that soldiers were being served undercooked and contaminated food.
“This was an issue of concern to me, and one that I brought up while visiting the troops last week. My understanding at the time of my visit was that this issue had been remedied. However, since that day, we have received multiple new reports of soldiers being served raw chicken and other food containing metal shavings. This is unacceptable and an embarrassment to the D.C. leadership accountable for this mission,” Bergman wrote.
“Having commanded Marine Forces Reserve during, and following, Hurricane Katrina, I fully understand that the breadth and scope of a mission this size can pose some unique circumstances and logistical issues. Yet, this is no excuse for the continued poor treatment of our National Guard, who deserve to be fed meals that are safe to consume,” he added.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that about 2,300 National Guard troops will stay in Washington at the U.S. Capitol through to May 23.
“This decision was made after a thorough review of the request and after close consideration of its potential impact on readiness,” Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
The extension was made after Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman, who made the formal request, told the House Legislative Branch Subcommittee in her prepared testimony (pdf) that the level of existential threats to the U.S. Capitol and the surrounding area “are increasing,” citing Jan. 6, when the Capitol building was breached as congressional proceedings were underway to certify the results of the 2020 presidential.
Some members of Congress have criticized the decision to keep the National Guard members in Washington, arguing that they were no longer necessary. Other lawmakers have raised concerns about the conditions the soldiers have been enduring while on duty. At one point in January, the National Guard members were seen sleeping or resting in cold parking garages without adequate heating. That order has since been remedied.
National Guard members were deployed after the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, and more than 20,000 were on hand during the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden. Officials also set up a nonscalable fence topped with razor wire around the Capitol facility.
Mimi Nguyen-Ly and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.