By Samantha Liptrap
Baltimore native Ronnie Deguzman said he has no doubt that his hometown will bounce back from the protests that occurred here last month.
A member of the National Guard who was stationed in downtown Baltimore after riots hit the city, Deguzman said he witnessed as much positive energy during his deployment as he did negative.
“It starts within us,” he said. “A positive vibe is just as contagious as a bad one, if not more. Through positivity, great things can be achieved and if our community comes together as one and stops being so easily divided, we could most definitely bounce back from this.”
Deguzman has been a member of the National Guard for five years, and he said he was committed to keeping the peace because it was his city.
“It also meant insuring the safety of my family and friends who live in the area as well,” Deguzman said.
Because of the riots, soldiers missed time from their full-time jobs. Deguzman said he received the call that his unit was being deployed while he was on his way home from his full-time job.
Deguzman, who works for a security company in Virginia securing federal facilities, said his normal days off from work are Tuesday and Wednesday and he got the call on Monday night that he was needed at the Inner Harbor.
“Don’t get me wrong, I was more than happy that they called us,” Deguzman said. “I wanted to be of some assistance to try and get the city back in order.”
Deguzman said his first thought when he got the call was, “what took so long?”
“Seeing the situation escalate and the amount of violence that happened on Monday, we knew that we were going to go,” Deguzman said. “It was just a matter of time.”
He said that as riots hit the city April 27, he and his fellow members of the National Guard were sending text messages to each other asking if anyone had heard anything yet.
“Plenty of other soldiers and I were eager to get out there and help the authorities get back the control of our city,” Deguzman said.
Deguzman said that the first day and a half, none of the soldiers got any sleep.
“After that, it was an hour here, hour there, not too much sleep at all,” Deguzman said.
He said there were negative things being said to guardsman and that people were cursing at them, threatening the National Guard for being stationed in the city.
“But surprisingly, there was a lot of positive actions coming from the community as well,” he said.
Local businesses like Whole Foods, Five Guys and Chick-fil-A were bringing them food and thanking them for their service, he said.
“They mentioned that they felt safer knowing we were there for them,” Deguzman said.
Many civilians came up to them and thanked them for their service and for assisting the officers.
After the first few days at the Inner Harbor, his battalion was tasked to the Western District Police Station.
“The officers themselves were thanking us for our assistance as well,” he said. “The law enforcement that we were attached to was very welcoming. They provided us with water and Gatorade, pretty much everything that was donated to them. They shared with us with no problem.”
Deguzman said that throughout the week it was extremely draining. He said his unit was tired and often had to sleep outside.
“Sometimes it got a little overwhelming, people were starting to get irritated with the whole situation,” he said. “But we couldn’t let that interfere with why we were there. When it came down to it, we knew why we were there and that we were going to complete the mission.”