Some national veterans organizations vow to remove members charged in the Capitol riots

Violent protesters storm the Capitol, Wednesday, January, 6, 2021. Some national veterans organizations have vowed to remove members who were charged in the Capitol riots. By Christina Zdanowicz, CNN

(CNN) -- Some national veterans organizations have vowed to remove members who were charged in the Capitol riots, taking a stand against the violent attack last week.

Current and former US military members participated in the insurrection, according to news reports and court records.

A handful of veterans organizations told CNN they are actively checking their membership lists for veterans who have come up in the news. Organizations like the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and AMVETS said they also plan to revoke memberships of those found guilty of illegal acts or violence.

"We believe that our members have a very sacred right to protest," Dan Clare, a spokesman for DAV, told CNN. "They fought and sacrificed to protect that freedom, but when protesters cross the line and commit illegal acts, especially in the nation's capitol, we found it to be abhorrent."

The DAV has more than 1 million members and is a bipartisan organization. While the organization supports its members right to protest, it was "disgusted that vets were involved in any way in acts of violence," Clare said.

DAV National Commander Stephen "Butch" Whitehead said in a statement that the organization is "saddened that any veteran would desecrate" the nation's capitol.

The organization "will take immediate action to initiate the removal of any DAV member found guilty of committing illegal acts against our nation," Whitehead said.

As the DAV has heard of media reports, it has checked its database, Clare said. It has not found anyone that was a member, he said.

AMVETS, which has 250,000 members, said it was "shocked, saddened and outraged" by the riots at the Capitol.

The organization's constitution includes an oath taken by members to preserve the democracy and the freedom of the country, AMVETS wrote in a statement to CNN.

"This mob intentionally used violence to interrupt and attempt to stop a function mandated by the U.S. Constitution," the statement read. "They killed a law enforcement officer (who was a veteran), injured many more, desecrated the halls of Congress and threatened to derail democracy."

United States Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick died after sustaining injuries while on duty, Capitol Police said.

Sicknick was a staff sergeant for the New Jersey National Guard, according to a statement from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's office. He served as a fire team member and a leader of the 108th Security Force Squadron, 108th Wing, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Murphy's statement said.

AMVETS said if any of its members participated in the violence, they would be expelled from the organization by their local post. The organization said it had not seen any evidence of any of its members being involved.

The American Legion, the country's largest veterans service organization, condemned the violence.

"An attack on the Capitol is an attack on all of us," American Legion National Commander James W. "Bill" Oxford said in a statement. "Regardless of whether the violence is inflicted by right-leaning groups, left-leaning groups or unaffiliated civilians, it is never acceptable. This is not how we do things in America."

John Raughter, a spokesman for American Legion, said the organization is leaving disciplinary actions up to its posts if members violated its principles.

"We trust the posts to determine whether or not one of its members have violated our Preamble and principles," Raughter wrote in an email to CNN. "It would be unfortunate to stereotype the overwhelming majority of America's veterans due to the actions of a fringe few.

Thus far, the organization said it has not heard of any of its nearly 2 million members being part of the violence, he said.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), which has more than 1.5 million members, told CNN that at this time, it does "not know if any VFW members participated in last week's attack on our nation's Capitol."

"We have policies and procedures in place to take organizational action against members who engage in conduct unbecoming to the organization," VFW spokesman Terrence L. Hayes told CNN in an email.

CNN reached out to the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Wounded Warrior Project for comment but has not heard back.

Both organizations condemned the attacks in statements posted online.

Three veterans face charges in connection with the events at the Capitol, CNN reported as of Wednesday. To date, the veterans organizations CNN spoke with said those facing charges are not on their membership lists.

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