As images of hundreds of National Guard troops sleeping on the hard floors of the U.S. Capitol pinballed around the internet Wednesday, Guard leaders faced an unusual problem: a rush of Americans who wanted to donate money and "comfort items" to these service members.
In a message released Wednesday evening, the Guard issued a simple request: please don't.
"In response to photos on social media and in the press today showing National Guardsmen resting in between shifts at the Capitol, many well-meaning and thoughtful citizens are organizing collection of comfort items for National Guard men and women who are in the District of Columbia in support of the upcoming presidential inauguration," the statement said. "While we appreciate the many offers and people who care about our soldiers and airmen, we are not logistically able to accept donations of any kind."
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Many viewed the images of sleeping troops and mistakenly thought that the more than 15,000 Guard members in D.C. were being housed inside the U.S. Capitol. But as Military.com reported earlier, that's not the case. Instead, the troops have secured rooms in local hotels as authorized under their Title 32 state mobilization orders.
The Guard members sleeping in the Capitol were on authorized breaks during their 12-hour duty shifts, an official told Military.com.
While not on duty, Guard troops are lodging in local hotels under a Title 32 mobilization, which puts Guard members under state control while receiving pay and benefits from the federal government.
"In addition, please know our National Guardsmen have appropriate lodging for when they are off-duty; the photos circulating are of them on-duty, in a designated rest area between shifts," the Guard statement said. "Being present is the first step in ensuring the safety of our citizens and our Nation's Capitol. Our security personnel work in shifts and rest when they can as others stand watch."
The Guard presence around the Capitol will remain in place through the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden. In the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol siege by pro-Trump protesters, troops from Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania have flooded into Washington, D.C., joining the fully activated D.C. National Guard.
Others are also taking steps to minimize the possibility of violent demonstrations. Lodging platform Airbnb announced it was canceling all D.C. reservations around the inauguration, and other hotel vendors are following suit.
Guard members deployed to the district for Capitol security have been authorized to carry lethal weapons, the D.C. National Guard acknowledged Tuesday.
-- Matthew Cox contributed to this report.