Benedictine Military School has a direct connection – Alex Finkel, BC Class of 2014 – to the United States’ 59th Presidential Inauguration.
Finkel, 24, is a U.S. Army National Guard second lieutenant with the South Carolina National Guard’s Alpha Company, 4-118th Infantry Battalion. He was one of 671 National Guard soldiers from South Carolina who were activated over the course of nine days to serve as a protective presence in Washington, D.C., in support of the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Finkel, who attends the University of South Carolina School of Law and plans to graduate in the spring of 2022, was in Columbia, S.C., Jan. 12 when he received a phone call that night informing him that he was being activated. Three days later, Finkel was armed and standing guard at the U.S. Capitol.
“I was on night guard duty, so we’d stand on the perimeter at night,” he said, before adding humorous sarcasm. “It was so much fun in the 25-degree weather. I remember one night it started snowing and I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ (My shift) was usually like 8 p.m. until 8 a.m., but I wouldn’t be out there the whole 12 hours. There was my company and about 40 other people were attached to us from my battalion. We went up there with our sister company and also with our sister battalion. There were a lot more soldiers there. It was really shocking, logistically, how it all came together, just around the nation. There were people all the way from Guam out there.”
Finkel said the U.S. Army’s show of force throughout the District of Columbia proved to be a successful deterrent against criminal activity.
“It was kind of sad, to a degree, that it was needed but it was also impressive,” he said. “It was so cold, the protestors wouldn’t come out when I was out there. It was bitter cold. The most locked-down time in D.C.’s history since the Civil War. We were all talking, you’d have to be absolutely psychotic to try to pull anything. Most people were very cordial to us.”
Finkel had a tremendous view of the Capitol from where he was posted.
“How it worked was there was an outer fence, and that’s what you mainly saw on TV, and then there was an inner fence around the Capitol,” he said. “I was in front of the reflection pool at that end of the (National) Mall, just outside of the inner fence. I could see the President walk down, the Vice President, all those people. You could see the snipers up on the buildings. It was kind of crazy.”
Finkel, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Furman University in 2018, was activated last summer to provide security in Washington, D.C., for a week. He also was activated for hurricane duty. But protecting the nation’s capital and top lawmakers on Inauguration Day was a next-level experience he said he will cherish forever.
“It’s insane,” Finkel said, laughing. “I would never have guessed, three weeks ago, that I would have done that, much less guessed when I was in high school at BC that I would have done that. It was just really cool to be there. I’ve seen inaugurations on TV but to actually be that close, it was just awe-inspiring. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat, it’s still an inauguration of the U.S. President.”
“The whole thing was super-impressive,” Finkel said. “That was a really great speech by President Biden. In my opinion, it was the second-best speech I’ve ever heard given, after his response to the riots. It was super-cool.”
Finkel said his surroundings made him feel as if he was on the set of a movie production.
“Thankfully, it was very uneventful besides the inauguration event,” he said.
Finkel returned to Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 23. He has received several phone calls, text messages and emails from BC alumni as word spread that he was at the Presidential Inauguration. One person – BC JROTC instructor Master Sergeant Reinaldo Osorio – guessed that Finkel would be sent to Washington, D.C., and called to check on him.
“He called me right before I left,” Finkel said. “MSG Osorio has been one of the most important people in my life. If it wasn’t for him, and COL. (Richard) LaRossa, and a couple of people from my college, I don’t know where I’d be today. I wouldn’t have done ROTC. And just to think about that is a scary thought because I wouldn’t have graduated college without ROTC. I needed some type of structure. It was a blessing, looking back on it.
“I never had the thought that I’d join the Army,” Finkel continued. “It just kind of went from one impulse decision to the other, to be honest. I come from a family of lawyers. My dad is the only one in his family in like three generations not to be one. I kind of always had that in the back of my mind to be one. COL. LaRossa told me about an ROTC scholarship and so I did that (at Furman University), and so I could go to law school I joined the National Guard after college.”
Finkel commissioned at Furman in 2018, and then took nearly a year off to work.
“I was actually a Segway tour guide in Savannah for nine months,” he said. “And then I went to Fort Benning and did my training there for about four-and-a-half, five months. And then I went to law school a couple of weeks later. The National Guard is a great organization. I’ve had so many opportunities through the military in general. It has been beyond awesome. And you get to serve your country.”