The Immigrant Sergeant Who Defended Democracy
by Aquilino Gonell; Susan Shapiro
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Pub Date 07 Nov 2023 | Archive Date 27 Oct 2023
Catapult, Counterpoint Press, and Soft Skull Press, Counterpoint
Set against the extraordinary events of January 6, 2021, Aquilino Gonell’s inspirational memoir is rooted in the joys and struggles of the immigrant experience that have long defined the American experiment
Aquilino Gonell came to the United States from the Dominican Republic as a young boy. Although he spoke no English, he dedicated himself to his adopted land, striving for the American dream. Determined to be a success story, he joined the army to pay for college. He saw action in Iraq and returned home with PTSD. Believing in the promise of our government, he focused on healing himself and supporting his family. His hard work paid off when he landed a coveted position with the United States Capitol Police and rose to the rank of sergeant.
January 6, 2021, changed everything. When insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, Gonell bravely faced down the mob attempting to thwart the peaceful transfer of power. The brutal injuries he sustained that day would end his career in law enforcement. But when some of the very people he put his life on the line to protect downplayed or denied the truth of that day, he chose to speak out against the injustice done to him and the country. Chronicling what it means to live a life of conviction, one that adheres to the best ideas of our democracy, American Shield is a bold testament to the power of truth, justice, and accountability from a highly decorated officer and immigrant who exemplifies the greatest aspirations of a grateful nation.
“Sergeant Aquilino Gonell’s story —of coming to America as a child, of overcoming adversity and discrimination, of stepping forward to defend Democracy, of refusing to stay silent in the face of injustice —is riveting. It was moving to read about his first visit to the United States Capitol as a student, marveling at the majesty of the Dome and in awe of its hallowed halls. Decades later, it was there at the Capitol where he would display extraordinary heroism on January 6th: recalling in raw and harrowing detail how he endured unimaginable brutality and lasting trauma, only to see many of those he risked his life to protect minimize that dark day. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to Sergeant Gonell for his courageous and continued service, speaking out to ensure that we all remember the truth of the insurrection. American Shield is an all-American tale of duty and determination —beautifully told by an immigrant, a veteran and
—Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Emerita of the House of Representatives
“Whenever duty calls, Sergeant Gonell answers. His story of service and resilience is uplifting and inspiring. And he's my height, which I also admire!”
“To journey to America and fight for your piece of the American Dream is one thing. To then take an oath to help others in a foreign land get a piece of their own freedom is courageous. To come home from war and take another oath only to find yourself defending that freedom against your fellow Americans is a nightmare—one that some involved on January 6 have not yet awakened from. American Shield is a tale of how to survive the battles we choose and the battles that choose us.”
—Roy Wood Jr., The Daily Show
“Sergeant Aquilino Gonell is a national hero and a patriot who put his life at risk in the line of duty to serve our nation and defend our democracy. He took an oath to protect our nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic and stood on the frontlines amid the threats of the January 6th insurrection and the direct assault on our Capitol, the Congress, and more importantly, the Constitution. Sergeant Gonell is a patriot and has defended our nation valiantly, and I am honored to call him a friend, a brother, a fellow Dominican, and a hero. I commend him for sharing his story, which is a part of American history, with each of us.”
—Congressman Adriano Espaillat
“If you want to know what it was really like to face the mob of insurrectionists on January 6th, and the overwhelming odds facing police that day, this very personal, very powerful memoir is essential reading. And if you want to know what courage looks like — in Iraq, on the steps of the Capitol, or risking it all again by speaking out to millions — it looks a lot like the strong, proud, unassuming, and brave countenance of an immigrant and U.S. Sergeant named Aquilino Gonell.”
—Congressman Adam Schiff
“This modern America makes it hard sometimes to find the will to believe. Vicious nativism, worsening radicalization, and poisonous white supremacy confront us every day with real and pressing dangers. But Aquilino Gonell's story is a redemption we probably don't deserve. For an immigrant to defend this nation on January 6th against those very forces, to navigate one American folly after another, is more than enough to rekindle the flames of belief again. Read this book and fight to rediscover faith once more.”
—Jared Yates Sexton, author of The Midnight Kingdom
“Sgt. Aquilino Gonell's story is that of a true American Patriot. A life dedicated to the service of his country. It was my honor to serve alongside him in the Lower West Terrace Tunnel on January, 6 2021.”