Military veterans say they are increasingly and aggressively being recruited by extremist groups, including those allegedly involved in the U.S. Capitol insurrection.
The News4 I-Team reported in July about growing concerns extremist groups spread disinformation by social media to try to lure military vets to join. The investigation found dozens of military veterans and at least one active duty Marine are charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, including a number allegedly affiliated with extremists.
Veterans service groups say extremists recruit them because vets are considered influencers who can bring others along if they join extremist causes and because veterans have experience in planning and equipping for missions.
According to testimony at a congressional hearing this week, the groups of concern include the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters -- all of which have also been linked to the Jan. 6 riot.
“Personally, to see veterans at the Jan. 6 insurrection was very, very disturbing for me,” retired U.S. Marine Joe Plenzler said. “I was disgusted to see that many Marines had participated in that event. And when I find out that my fellow brothers and sisters in arms, some of who have been led down the wrong path and joining these organizations is very disheartening for me.”
Congress is asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to help, ordering the agency to help educate veterans about social media disinformation and conspiracy theories and to provide more counseling services.