Guest article written by Laura Elizabeth Jenkins, originally published AmericanGulag.org
A year ago today, unarmed Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt was killed by Capitol Police officer Michael LeRoy Byrd. Her legacy lives on.
Although a year has passed since Ashli’s death, customers from the pool company she owned continue coming, remembering their lively conversations with her.
“People say: ‘I told my daughter about your daughter today. Your daughter lives in my daughter’s heart,’” reflects Ashli’s mother, Micki Wittehoeft.
“We live in an extremely liberal beach town, and I can’t find a single person we’ve been around that didn’t weep on my shoulder just saying how much they loved Ashli the person,” says her husband, Aaron.
He continued, “I’ve never been prouder to be her husband, and to know that Ashli Babbitt — with my last name — is going to go down in history books.”
You can listen to additional portions of the interview below, but for those who prefer to read, here is the transcript for the audio segment above:
Laura Jenkins: What I’ve admired in getting to know you a little bit, Aaron, through the birthday party and speaking to you is you seem to have a very long-term vision. I think that it’s a skill — well it’s a quality but it is also a skill — that people in general need to hear.
We live for today, yet we want to see the birthday party next year. We want to see things moving into the future. So how can people who are in this situation, like the parents and loved ones of the incarcerated, keep a long-term vision like you’re doing right now?
Aaron Babbitt: I had a choice very early. Going back to the 6th, and the 7th, and the 8th, I had a crossroads I had to come to. I stopped and knew I could either just be a blob on the floor for a very long time. Or, I could channel all of my anger, and my rage, and my grievances and everything into a positive manner — which is going to bring me, and bring Ashli — to a place that she needs to be in history, and where I need to be for her. And for me to lay my head down at night, knowing that I did everything for her, that day that I possibly could. I feel like I chose the correct path. Because I don’t know where I’d be on the other end.
I live and breathe and eat and sleep Ashli and this cause and this case every single moment of my life. Like I walk around with earbuds in, listening to things about the 6th and what I can add. And I live it every single day. That’s what keeps me going. I really just truly do this-I do this, I mean for me personally, I do this, and I personally told Micki, “There’s going to come a day somewhere down the road that I’m gonna see Ashli again. And I want her to … I want her to tell me that I did a good job.”
Laura Jenkins: That’s right.
Aaron Babbitt: And I, I fought for her. So that’s what keeps me going. As far as the families that are dealing with this, I already said what I said, but- just know that you have an army behind you. And … the right does a hard job, they have a hard time speaking up and opening their mouths.
The left really does a good job- but they normally, you know, flub all over themselves and trip all over themselves. And they drool a lot, but the right doesn’t really- the right doesn’t really do a good job of speaking up. They kind of, we still have for some reason in this country — I can’t imagine why now — it’s still a silent majority.
You need to open your mouth. I was the quiet person in my relationship with Ashli. That’s why I loved her even more so, because she would run her mouth all of the time. But now I have two voices that I have to speak for. And hers is a very hard one to match.
But I do my best, so for all of these people and these families and these guys that are in jail, just know you’re loved-you’re absolutely loved and you’re respected. And people are pulling for you and we think about you every single damn day. Every single damn day. Every day, at least an hour-every hour of every day, I think about these guys. And I know what they’re going through, it hard, it’s absolutely hard. But I can say this-and Micki can say this-you still can open your eyes. So no matter how much pain you’re going through, it’s not the pain that Ashli went through. And Ashli doesn’t get to open her eyes anymore.
Laura Jenkins: I respect that. We appreciate you, brother.
Aaron Babbitt: Thank you, yes. I love all of you guys.
Laura Jenkins: And Micki, you know, I really admire the maturity that you have. I um, noticed that in about 2006 how there were mothers who lost their children who maybe acted selfishly, like Cindy Sheehan-and then there were mothers whom we didn’t get a lot of media attention or see-but were like standing up for their kid- for their son.
And tell me, when you look back at your life journey, what have you learned from your daughter? You had the privilege of raising an amazing woman.
Tell us what you learned and still feel about her today.
Micki Wittehoeft: Well, I learned a lot of things from Ashli. I learned that life is bigger than yourself. You know that, that also Ashli would say all the time ‘you have to hydrate and press on.’ And Ashli made so many sacrifices in her life. That she was able to say that.
You know, she had a right to say ‘hydrate and press on’ because it’s not like Ashli was a pampered little elitist. She, she put her time in, Ashli was, you know, in Alaska policing the fence line. She’s guarded planes of presidents. She’s been to you know, Iraq and Afghanistan. She was-like I said, Ashli had a pragmatic approach to life. She would not let small hurdles get in her way. They were just challenges — not obstructions.
So I try to pull from Ashli’s strength because I’m not all that political. But looking back, I wish I would have been a little more. I wish that, you know maybe, I should have paid a little bit more attention to some things, but you know I have learned from Ashli that no matter what, you have to go on and you have to do, the next, and I don’t know if I’ve learned it from her or I’m proud that I instilled that in her, but I know that, I mean you have to go on and you have to be your best self.
And, you know again, like Aaron, I feel like it’s our obligation to be Ashli’s voice. And we have had definitely. We have definitely had something precious stolen from us. And Ashli has had something precious stolen from her.
I have to believe in the fact that, that some day, you know with great suffering comes great change. So I believe that our great suffering and this country’s great suffering will, will bring great change. And, and you know- life lessons I’ve learned from Ashli are “you’re stronger than you think you are.”
Laura Jenkins: Wow, that’s beautiful. You’re stronger than you think you are. Well, I just, I wish we could talk all night because I feel like I’ve learned from you. I feel like I know a little bit of Ashli even though we didn’t have the privilege to quite meet.
Ashli Babbitt was an independent child who enjoyed horseback riding, soccer, water polo, ballet, line dancing, and gymnastics while growing up in California.
From a young age, she aspired to serve in the military and took the steps to do so while in high school. She deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and also provided security for government officials traveling around the world.
After the Air Force, Ashli worked at a nuclear power plant in Maryland. She met Aaron in the bowels of the plant. They got to know each other while working the same shift.
With Aaron’s unconditional support and encouragement, Ashli realized her dream of buying a pool company and moving back to California. Living in the San Diego area afforded her the opportunity to constantly meet new people, including tourists from different backgrounds. She enjoyed being closer to her grandfather and parents.
“If Ashli was alive and we were talking about someone else being shot that day, she would not rest,” says Wittehoeft. “She’s the kind of person that would still be sitting on the steps of the jail, demanding justice.”
“Ashli would always say you’d have to ‘hydrate and press on.’”
For those who prefer to scan through the interview, rather than listen to the audio, here is a transcript of that segment (or scroll down for additional audio segments of this interview):
Aaron Babbitt: I have never been prouder to be her husband. I’ve never been prouder to know that Ashli Babbitt — with my last name — is going to go down in history books. Because that is my wife, and I’ve never been prouder to say that in my life.
And I miss her every day, but I’m so freaking proud of her.
Micki Wittehoeft: And I’ll say, you know in closing — because like you said, we can chat all night-people say “I told my daughter about your daughter today. Your daughter lives in my daughter’s heart.”
And that is special.
Laura Jenkins: It’s beautiful. I think that there are so many people who … in other countries found comfort from Ashli.
And I thought that was remarkable because sometimes we don’t know that immediately.
Aaron Babbitt: Right. People in Australia. I mean, I mean specifically, I get a lot of letters from Australia. They’re saying what your wife did I mean not what she did — but I mean her being murdered — but they view her in a different way like she’s a martyr.
I don’t look at my wife as a martyr. I don’t look at her that way. My wife was murdered. She did, she did not want to be in that specific situation, that area once she figured out where she was — but they view her this way.
I know that she was there voicing her rights and her opinion and she got murdered for it. And these people in these other countries are looking at her, saying ‘we need Ashlis here’-we need more people that aren’t afraid to speak up and stand up, and address grievances, and you know, your rights as a citizen of said country.
They’re not getting that. They’re not getting that. Their government is way more suppressive at this point than ours is. We are getting there, I think they’re going to have a short-lived attempt, but they’re getting there. But yeah, we get so much support from the UK, the Netherlands, you know, Eastern Europe and Australia. Communist countries in Asia-this beautiful, beautiful woman from uh … was it Vietnam or Cambodia?
Micki Wittehoeft: I don’t know, I’m not sure what story you’re telling ……
Aaron Babbitt: That made the plaque for us though, I think she’s Vietnamese. Well, she came and brought the plaque to my office and she wrote this poem. This woman was like in her mid-70s and she was just bawling, crying.
Micki Wittehoeft: I got the opportunity to meet her later on. Just a couple months ago, I met her.
Aaron Babbitt: She was just crying, just bawling, saying how she had escaped communism. She was actually getting terrified, living in this country now, as it is, seeing what happened to Ashli and how she was her hero.
And there’s big-time stories out there. And we live in a very high population of Iraqis, there’s a lot of Iraqi immigrants here. They’re saying “We got out of Iraq, look at where we are now. We saw it coming in Iraq, we see it coming down here.”
So people need to start paying attention to the immigrants from these countries where they’ve been suppressed and oppressed. Start paying attention to them. Because they’ve seen it, and they’ve seen it coming. They know the future. So start talking to them because they’re the ones that have the outlook on, on where we possible could be going. And it’s real.
It’s not just a bunch of Americans that have been sitting around on their asses, you know, just saying “hey this might happen.” Right? It’s real people that have really been there and they’re saying “I see the signs, I see the stars in the sky, I see it in the sky and going to place right now we might what to check out of,” right?
Laura Jenkins: There’s a lot of wisdom. Some of them were there on Jan. 6.
Aaron Babbitt says he receives messages from people around the world who’ve been inspired by Ashli. From first-generation Americans within his hometown to far-away Asian and Australian citizens on lockdown, they respect Ashli’s courage to confront corruption and increased government encroachment on civil liberties.
And here’s a transcript of the interview segment above:
Aaron Babbitt: For the people that are in involved, the people that are in jail and their families, if they can take any comfort, just take comfort in the fact that your loved one that’s in jail — as bad as it is, as bad as it is — you get to put up and put your feet on the ground every day still alive, and Ashli was robbed of that. We were robbed of Ashli.
So if anybody’s listening to or reading this, at least they have that. They’re still alive — and it sucks — but you’re still alive, you’re going to see the light of day one day. And life’s going to go on for you. There will be a lot of people rallying to support you and we’re going to get you back on your feet.
Laura Jenkins: I think that’s why American Gulag exists, and that as a community, we’re stronger. We’re showing unity. This is the United States. So yeah, we are going to welcome those people. We’re not going to shun them. We’re going to give them more support.
And it’s not just seeing the light of day. It’s beyond that. They’re going to feel loved and cared about and not different from anyone else. That’s what my aspirations are.
Yeah, know that there are people that say “Hey, I want this person to work for me. Let’s accommodate them, and let’s rehabilitate the debilitated health so that God can restore the health of our loved ones in prison.”
Aaron Babbitt: Yup. They’ll be elevated. They will be celebrated. That time is going. They’re putting in time, but they’re gonna, they’re gonna get their due diligence.
Micki Wittehoeft: They’ll get to see the other side. They’ll get to see the other side. And I don’t mean to minimize their suffering, because I know like Aaron said, they do get to wake up and see another day. You know we don’t have that. And you know, Ashli, we love and miss her every day.
You can support #JusticeforAshli and support her family’s legal defense fund HERE.