Published January 22, 2021

MELROSE — About 500 members of the Massachusetts National Guard left the Bay State for Washington, D.C. on Saturday in an effort to provide extra security during the week of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The 182nd Infantry Regiment of the Guard that left from the Melrose Armory were addressed by Maj. Gen. Gary W. Keefe before leaving for the nation’s capital Saturday morning.

MAJOR GENERAL Gary Keefe addresses members of the Massachusetts National Guard at the Melrose Armory before they depart for Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Jan. 16.

“I thanked them for everything from folks we had going to the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. We had people delivering PPE and we were part of the (response to the) civil unrest and some of the protests throughout the summer,” Keefe said.

“But I really thanked them here, and I apologized,” the major general added. “I said, ‘I’m sorry I have to actually ask you to kind of leave your families again and head down to our nation’s capital because our country is so broken right now, we have to defend the Constitution.’”

U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, of the 5th District, and Melrose Mayor Paul Brodeur were also in attendance for the send-off.

Other Massachusetts National Guard members from Braintree and Agawam are also heading to Washington.

Keefe says his troops will be staying in hotels while in D.C., and that they are taking weapons and ammunition with them. However, Keefe says the decision about whether or not to load the weapons will be made when the troops make it to the capital.

Security is tight at the U.S. Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection involving President Donald Trump’s supporters. Hundreds of National Guard members are camped out at the Capitol to protect lawmakers.

Thousands of other National Guard members are also supporting law enforcement throughout the city.

Out of an abundance of caution, Gov. Charlie Baker has activated another 500 members of the Massachusetts National Guard in order to support local law enforcement.

“The order makes Guard personnel available in the event that municipal leaders require assistance to maintain public safety while protecting the exercise of First Amendment rights. National Guard personnel are deployed only at the request of, and in coordination with, the communities seeking support,” Baker’s office wrote in a statement.

Biden’s inauguration took place at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 20.