It was a relatively routine patrol call on an early Saturday afternoon for Spc. Cody Lanier. Staff at the Fort Carson Visitor Control Center (VCC) near Gate 1 requested that a uniformed officer respond to the VCC to assist staff and a civilian couple.
When Lanier, a military police (MP) officer with the 110th Military Police Company, 759th MP Battalion, pulled up to the VCC along with a fellow military policeman, he noticed an elderly gentleman smoking outside the building. Once inside, he learned the gentleman was one of two people who needed assistance — not medical assistance, though that remained a possibility, but location assistance.
The elderly couple had traveled from out of state and were dropped off at the center Sept. 19 by an acquaintance. Possessing little to no currency and with no means of transportation, they told VCC staff they hoped their veteran status might help them gain access to Fort Carson.
Visitor center staff told Lanier that the couple’s installation-access paperwork lacked authenticity.
“The gentleman said he was a retired sergeant major and that his traveling companion was a Navy veteran, but all they had to show was an authorization letter that looked as though it had been photo copied,” Lanier said. “Neither of them had identification and the story of how they made it to Colorado from Virginia was definitely a weird one.”
As a matter of security, visitor center staff typically deny access to anyone who can neither provide a DOD ID or valid credentials for entering the installation.
Most people, after being denied access, would simply hop in their car and drive off property.
But again, this wasn’t a normal situation. Though the couple had been traveling with a complete set of luggage, they had no place to go and no means to get anywhere. The Navy veteran was also wheelchair bound.
“The way I understood it, they were hoping that the gentleman’s VA status would help them obtain a house on Fort Carson,” Lanier said. “They had been homeless for a long time and were sick and really just looking to get a roof over their heads.”
That left Lanier with an interesting dilemma.
“There was no way I was going to just drive them outside of our jurisdiction and leave them at a gas station,” he said. “Given that, my options were limited.”
Lanier, a two-year Army veteran from the Jacksonville, Florida, region, enlisted in the Army in 2018 with one military operational specialty in mind — law enforcement. Following his training segments, he arrived at Fort Carson and the 110th MP company late in 2018, where he began his MP career at the Mountain Post.
“My mom and stepdad are both police officers, so I’ve kind of followed in their footsteps,” he said. “At the same time, my family always seemed to be involved with helping those less fortunate. We used to take food and water to people who lived in a homeless camp outside of our neighborhood, for example. It was just normal for us.”
Back at the visitor center, Lanier faced a conundrum, but he refused to give up. First, he sent his partner back on post to continue patrol duties, then he called Lt. Angela Muldoon, who was the watch commander for the Fort Carson Police Department that day. After several phone conversations, Muldoon arrived at the visitor center to talk with Lanier and the homeless couple in an effort to determine a plan for their next step.
In the meantime, Lanier began calling local homeless shelters and veteran assistance agencies, hoping to find some place he could transport the couple.
“I called every one I could find in the helping-agency listings and all of them were either closed or their staff weren’t sure if they had room for this couple,” he said. “It wasn’t just two or three either, more like eight. So Lt. Muldoon and I ultimately decided that we could take the couple to a local hotel and then have them come back to the VCC the following Monday, when staff might be able to reach DOD officials who could help them settle the couple’s documentation and credential issues.”
Lanier and Muldoon loaded the couple, their wheelchair and luggage, into a police cruiser and drove them a few miles into town. Muldoon checked them into a hotel and ensured the staff was aware of who their guests were and when they would be checking out. Lanier and Muldoon then also paid for the room and provided cash to the couple for food and other necessary items out of pocket.
“The gentleman could barely walk and his wife used a wheelchair,” he said. “I couldn’t just abandon them.”
Lanier and Muldoon’s actions showed that police serve a variety of roles in their communities. While many may view them simply as strict authority figures, officers are often the first responders to those in desperate need of a helping hand.
In this case, the couple never returned to Fort Carson, in part because the gentleman could not provide a form DD-214 (verifying his veteran status). Instead, Lt. Col. Ranjini T. Danaraj, 759th MP commander and Director of Emergency Services at Fort Carson, made arrangements for the couple to receive assistance from Colorado Springs’ Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center.
“This was not a typical law enforcement call and the way Spc. Lanier responded and continued to help was impressive,” Muldoon said. “He would have been within standard operating procedure to simply walk away and let them fend for themselves, but he showed the compassion and desire to help the community, which I feel is very important in a police officer.”
Upon hearing word of Lanier’s actions, Col. Nate Springer, commander, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson, congratulated him during a recent leaders’ town hall update.
“Spc. Lanier showed selfless service and compassion that night, and he’s an awesome example of the best intentions of our first responders,” Springer said. “If we could all be a little more like Spc. Lanier and be kind to people, we would be better off on the installation.”