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Chicago South Sider, ex-St. Sabina altar boy, leads National Guard mobilization for Biden inauguration

Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard overseeing the military mobilization for Joe Biden’s inauguration, graduated from St. Sabina, Leo, UIC and Chicago State.

Maj. Gen. William Walker (left) is the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard overseeing more than 20,000 troops in Washington for Joe Biden’s inauguration, with threat levels high after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
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WASHINGTON — Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard overseeing the massive military mobilization for Joe Biden’s inauguration in the wake of the deadly Capitol siege, is a former St. Sabina’s altar boy and Leo High School graduate who grew up at 75th and Aberdeen.

By Wednesday, when President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn in at a heavily fortified Capitol, there should be between 22,000 and 25,000 guard members in parts of the city, Walker said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

While the security concerns are extraordinary and the threat level high, it is routine for National Guard members from around the nation to come to Washington to bolster inauguration security.

There were some 8,000 National Guard members deployed to the city for President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration and about 7,000 in 2013 when President Barack Obama was sworn into a second term, Walker said. The troops are coming from every state, including Illinois, which over the weekend had 267 National Guard members in the city.

There is unprecedented security here because of the Capitol attack by a Trump-supporting mob on Jan. 6, leaving five dead. There are multiple law enforcement agencies in play — all under the Secret Service — and troops in Walker’s command are the most visible.

The National Guard’s job is to support U.S. Secret Service, the Capitol Police, the Park Police and the D.C. Police Department. National Guard troops also provide security for members of Congress and their staffs around the Capitol, the White House and the National Mall.

Meeting this mission and moment is Walker, 63, who attended St. Sabina grammar school and continued as an altar boy while at Leo, graduating from the school at 7901 S. Sangamon St. in 1975.

Walker was the Leo High School Alumni Association Man of the Year for 2019, with the association calling him “one of the highest ranking and most decorated military leaders in Leo history.”

Walker’s undergraduate years were at the University of Illinois at Chicago; his master’s is from Chicago State University.

Walker’s military service started with the Illinois National Guard in 1981, which ran concurrently with his time as an agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

He was with the DEA in Chicago for a year and from there Walker did stints in various cities and abroad. He worked in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in the 1990s and after the 9/11 attacks, he spent a year in the Pentagon.

In all, Walker has been with the National Guard and DEA simultaneously for 30 years.

Walker said as a young boy he wanted to be an Army officer, and watching the “Untouchables” as a youth “inspired” him to be a DEA agent.

“As a kid growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I always knew I wanted to serve. I had two ambitions, and I’m at the summit of those ambitions,” Walker said.

Through the years, Walker has stayed in touch with St. Sabina’s Rev. Michael Pfleger. “I know him, he knows my family.”

Pfleger was removed from St. Sabina earlier this month after 40-year-old child sex abuse charges surfaced.

The two have not talked since then. Said Walker, “I’m praying for him. I believe in him. And we’ll see what happens.”