Wednesday afternoon, Peachtree Mall told Army veteran Donny Knapp and other fellow veterans they are not allowed to be outside the Armed Forces Recruiting Center, which is on Peachtree Mall property. A day before, Knapp patrolled the recruiting center with a rifle until the mall said he was not allowed to anymore.
On Thursday, no veterans were on guard outside the sign-up location. “It didn’t make me feel like I was an American anymore,” Knapp said. This corporation behind us, the Peachtree Mall probably has 40% income off of Fort Benning alone. Those are the troops we need to support. The troops behind me are the ones that need the support.”
Veterans began patrolling recruiting centers because of the shootings in Chattanooga that took the lives of four Marines and one Navy sailor. They wanted to be the line of defense since recruiters are not allowed to be armed. “When we sit there in those chairs and we’re looking out into the parking lot, we’re actually thinking, that it’s gonna happen here and now and we’re ready,” veteran Glen Poland said.
Despite wanting to serve their younger, fellow servicemen and women, veterans understand why the mall asked them to leave the property. “It is their property,” Poland said. “So, we have to respect that. It’s their decision. No matter what the reason could be, we need to respect that immediately and leave because they do have the right to then charge us with criminal trespass and we didn’t want to do that. Nobody wants to elevate it to that level.”
Meanwhile, veterans say there is a growing concern from the military that they do not want veterans standing guard outside the recruiting centers. “We don’t want to be somewhere that we’re not wanted,” Poland said. “If they want us to be there, they want us to provide this service, we volunteer, we’ll do it. But, if they don’t want us to and they think it’s gonna create a larger problem, then we have to abide by that too and not be there.”
Knapp added that he is looking for more locations where he and fellow veterans can stand on guard to protect their fellow servicemen and women.
News 3 reached out to Peachtree Mall, but they declined to comment.