Extremist groups are recruiting veterans; House lawmakers want to know why and how

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Lawmakers are working to figure out how and why extremists groups are targeting more veterans after it was revealed that roughly 10% of the individuals facing charges in connection with the Jan. 6 Capital attack are somehow affiliated with the U.S. military.

“Unfortunately, a lot of veterans, a lot of military that are transitioning, get lost in the cracks and I think they start reaching out,” Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said at a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing Wednesday. “They start looking for that sense of camaraderie that they missed. They start looking for that sense of mission.”

The hearing, led by Democratic Chairman Rep. Mark Takano, was to investigate the problem and propose solutions to support veterans.

“Our job is to is to protect veterans,” Takano said. “Provide them with better pathways so there isn’t a sense of isolation, a sudden loss of sense of purpose.”

Most Republicans who deal with veteran issues agree.

“Our job is to help them get care benefits, services and opportunities that they’ve earned,” said Congressman Michael Bost. “If anything is going to prevent veterans from falling prey to violent extremism, it is that.”

According to data from the University of Maryland, authorities have connected nearly 80 people with military backgrounds to extremism this year. It compares to around 30 people in 2020 and less than 10 in 2019.

“For decades, violent extremist groups have sought to infiltrate our military to gain tactical training and access to explosives,” said Joe Plenzer, a former Marine who spoke at the hearing.

Experts say domestic extremist groups that played a role in the insurrection, like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and others, target veterans for their tactical experience and leadership abilities.

Butler says oftentimes, extremist groups aggressively recruit vets and active duty military members to add legitimacy to their cause

The vast majority of veterans arrested in connection with extremism were not on active duty.

In April, the U.S. Department of Defense announced a workgroup to study extremism. They’re updating training and have screenings for either current or past links to extremism among service members.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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