WASHINGTON — Among the men and women now serving on the front lines to protect the Nation's Capital is a Maryland National Guard member who saw combat in Afghanistan.
He also works as a police officer and has a wife and young son waiting for him to come home.
Years after fighting in the Middle East, his current deployment has him stationed at the US Capitol.
The shifts are long, the outside conditions are cold, and the overall experience of being there has been anything but pleasant.
"I just got off the phone with him and he said some of the young men that he’s with don’t have enough money to buy some extra gear they might have so they’re wearing three pairs of extra socks to keep their feet warm," his mother said on Wednesday. "He went online today to order some more gear from Amazon that he’s going to have delivered to my nephew who lives in DC and then my nephew is going to walk over some of the stuff.”
The guardsman's mother asked WUSA9 not to broadcast their last names due to the sensitive nature of her son's deployment.
However, after hearing about the conditions her son is living in now, she wanted to let others know about the experience facing the men and women working to keep DC secure.
After her son deployed last Thursday, she said he and other Guardsmen have been forced to use trash bags and armor for pillows and blankets.
The servicemembers aren't allowed to drink coffee "because of the optics," according to her son.
No laundry service is available after her son brought enough clothing for two days, the mother claimed.
By the time dinner rolls around, the guardsman's mom said troops could be greeted with an unappetizing option.
"He gets cold food at about eight o’clock at night. He gets a box of cold food left out on the sidewalk for him. Cold spaghetti at eight o’clock," she said. "He feels like he really isn’t getting enough food, so he’s bought some of his own food. He’s gone to local convenience stores.”
As the guardsman's mother, she can even hear the discomfort in her son's voice when they speak to one another on the phone.
"I can hear stress in his voice. He sounds tired," she said. "It hasn’t been a good deployment and he doesn’t feel like he has a defined mission.”
With the world still dealing with a pandemic, the concerns have also stretched to COVID-19.
Her son says troops often sleep close to one another at night, with some often taking their masks off.
"He said he’s not allowed to request a test unless he has obvious symptoms," she said.
After many photos of guardsmen sleeping on floors were posted to social media on Wednesday, the National Guard released a statement saying the photos likely showed the troops when they were considered on-duty.
"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 statement read. "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."
With many people reaching out about how they could help, the National Guard added that it cannot logistically accept donations of any kind.
Moving forward, the mother of the Maryland National Guard member who spoke to WUSA9 hoped her son's time on the front lines would be over soon.
"It’s hard and we’ll be thankful when all of our soldiers can come home," she said. "He said in many ways he felt he was better cared for by the army in Afghanistan than he feels he’s cared for now.”