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War Vet. Banned from Campus for Essay

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussion' started by luk8272, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. Nov 29, 2010 at 6:02 AM
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    luk8272

    luk8272 [OP] Poodoo

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    After publishing essay on addiction to war, Charles Whittington must obtain psychological evaluation before returning to classes


    By writing the paper, Charles Whittington thought he would confront the anxieties that had tormented him since he returned from war.

    He knew it wasn't normal to dwell on the pleasure of sticking his knife between an enemy soldier's ribs. But by recording his words, maybe he'd begin to purge the fixation.

    So Whittington, an Iraq veteran, submitted an essay on the allure of combat for his English class at the Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville. He called war a drug and wrote that killing "is something that I do not just want but something I really need so I can feel like myself."

    Whittington's instructor gave him an A and suggested that he seek publication for the piece. The essay appeared in the Oct. 26 edition of the campus newspaper.

    Two weeks later, the former infantryman was called to a meeting with high-ranking college officials, who told him he would be barred from campus until he obtained a psychological evaluation. "We all believe in freedom of speech, but we have to really be cautious in this post-Virginia Tech world," says college spokesman Hope Davis, referring to the 2007 massacre of 32 people by a student gunman.

    But Whittington, 24, says that he has his violent impulses under control with the help of counseling and medication and that the college is unfairly keeping him from moving forward with his life.

    "Right now, that's all I have left," he says of his classes.

    The dispute speaks to the apprehension that steers college officials as they try to prevent campus violence. But it also illustrates a common dilemma for veterans, who have endured traumas their peers can barely fathom and who often feel misunderstood when they try to discuss their experiences.

    "They have this problem on jobs and at colleges everywhere," says Deborah O'Doherty, president of the Maryland chapter of American War Mothers, a nonprofit group that supports troops. "The minute people feel a little shaky around a veteran, they just kick him out because they're uncomfortable."

    A family tradition

    Whittington grew up in Southwest Baltimore, attended Catonsville High School and joined ROTC, knowing that he wanted to be the latest in a long line of family members who had fought for the country. He enlisted in the Army in October 2005 and was deployed to Iraq a year later.

    His younger brother, Chris, who talks with him every day, says Whittington found a natural fit in the Army. "He's a hard worker, that's the biggest thing," Chris Whittington says. "He has always been patriotic, too. I went in to the Reserves because of watching him."

    About two months after his infantry unit arrived in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, Whittington began going on raids to capture insurgent leaders. The Army trucks rolled out in the evening, right around the time curfew set in. They tried to surprise their targets. "But we were the only ones on the road, so they knew we were coming," Whittington says.

    Enemy fire could come from anywhere at any time, so Whittington lived on a perpetual adrenaline rush. He tried to stay in constant motion, a lesson he says he learned from neighborhood scraps in Baltimore. He found the insurgents cowardly, prone to firing a few shots and then scurrying into the shadows.

    Firefights often erupted when his unit found an insurgent target, and Whittington believes he first shot and killed an enemy soldier during an exchange only a few months into his tour.

    "It felt wrong to me," he says. "I had to tell myself that it was him or me. But it bothered me enough that I went to a chaplain to talk about it."

    When he was out fighting, he didn't dwell on the danger or the killing. But during down time, his psyche became an open sore. "You can't think about it," he says. "Because that's when it hurts you."

    He's not sure how many enemy soldiers he killed but says he became numb to the violence over time.

    Whittington was injured by three different roadside explosions, the second of which took the ring finger on his right hand.

    Guilt tore at him as the injury kept him from fighting beside his friends. Though he is right-handed, he learned to shoot left-handed so he could stay in Iraq with his unit. He says he also lied about how much it hurt so doctors would clear him for action more quickly.

    But his tour ended with the third roadside explosion, which knocked him unconscious for five days. He awoke in a German hospital, disoriented and unable to remember the explosion or large chunks of his childhood. He couldn't walk at first and spent weeks in Germany getting strong enough to return to an Army base in El Paso, Texas. There, he learned that he wouldn't go back to Iraq.

    He can't find words to describe the pain of that realization. The guilt haunts him to this day. He says that when he wrote about killing in his essay, he was expressing his intense desire to get back in the fight with his Army buddies.

    "It's mostly the guilt that messes everyone up," he says.

    Writing as therapy

    Whittington suffers from ligament damage in his back and neck and nerve damage in his right arm. He says he was diagnosed with post-traumatic-stress disorder and medically discharged from the Army in August 2008.

    He drank excessively to dull the physical and emotional pain. One night, he crashed his car into a stalled tractor-trailer while drunk and veered into another car, injuring several people. He was sentenced to three months in a Texas prison. Confronted with so much free time to think about combat, he realized how much he missed the adrenaline of daily missions.

    He says he didn't learn to cope with his anxieties and violent urges until he followed a doctor's suggestion to write about his experiences. He found a new calm wrestling with combat on the page.

    After serving his prison sentence, Whittington returned to Baltimore and moved into a small room on the bottom floor of his father and stepmother's house off Caton Avenue. He kept to himself more than he had before enlisting. He hated it when old friends asked how many people he had killed or thanked him for his service.

    "If you didn't go through it, you don't understand," he says. "To have to sit there and explain, it just makes me feel more guilty."

    Whittington started classes at the community college this past spring. He sought a new purpose, and his spirits rose when he earned a perfect 4.0 average in his first semester.

    "When he first came home, he really wanted to go back [to Iraq] because that's what he knows," Chris Whittington says. "Over there, there ain't no problems. You're just doing your job. But he was doing good with his classes. As long as you give him a chance at something, he'll succeed. We don't like failure in my family."

    Essay and aftermath

    In English class this fall, instructor Linda De La Ysla encouraged Whittington to write about his time in Iraq. His previous writings were private, and he had rarely talked with anyone about his anxieties. But he decided that after two years, he was ready to lay them bare.

    Asked if that step was a big deal, he says, "Yes, sir."

    "I still feel the addictions running through my blood and throughout my body," Whittington wrote in the essay. "But now I know how to keep myself composed and keep order in myself."

    He said he could not stop dwelling on what he was trained to do. "When I stick my blade through his stomach or his ribs or slice his throat, it's a feeling that I cannot explain," he wrote. "But it feels so good to me."

    He ended the essay with a warning to terrorists, writing that they "will have nowhere to hide because there are hundreds of thousands of soldiers like me who feel like me and want their revenge as well."

    Despite those words, O'Doherty, a family friend who has spent a lot of time with Whittington since he returned from Iraq, says Whittingon is "harmless to everyone but himself." He visits local churches on behalf of her organization, she says.

    She went with him to the meeting where administrators told him he was barred from campus.

    "They had their minds made up," she says. "They're just a bunch of suits trying to protect their jobs. People who weren't in the military might be troubled by what he wrote. But instead of trying to work with him, they treat him like a criminal."

    Whittington seems baffled at the reaction to his work and the comparisons to Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter. "That guy wasn't a veteran or a soldier, and he was mad at the school," he says. "What I'm writing about has nothing to do with the school. Really, it's through writing that I've been able to deal with things."

    Chris Whittington says he can't imagine his brother hurting anyone despite the traumas he endured. "He's definitely the same guy to me," he says.

    Jonathan Shay, a Boston psychiatrist who has worked with numerous combat veterans, says they commonly wrestle with guilt and a sense that civilian life is boring and tasteless. He says friction with college professors is common.

    "The veteran knows that he knows incredibly valuable things," Shay says. "And now, in civilian life, those things may not only be useless, they may be looked upon with horror or fear. The veteran is not valued by the setting in which he finds himself."

    Whittington does not regret a word he wrote or his decision to publish the piece.

    The school's concerns

    Davis says the decisions to call Whittington in for a meeting and to bar him from campus came from administrators who were concerned about what they read. She says she is not aware of any concerns expressed by students. De La Ysla deferred questions about the essay to the spokeswoman.

    In fact, fellow veterans raised concerns about the article, says Mike Brittingham, a former Marine who is studying air traffic service at the college. Brittingham says campus veterans worried that Whittington's word's would portray all of them in a negative light.

    "I think the main point is that he does not express how most veterans feel," Brittingham says. "Being in the military is certainly not about going out and being addicted to killing people."

    Brittingham says he contacted campus safety officers and the president's office with concerns about the article and says the college acted properly in barring Whittington from campus. He adds that the college does an excellent job of working with veterans to process their benefits.

    "He didn't make any direct threats, but we still found some of the content disturbing," Davis says. "We felt that it was better to be cautious."

    Davis says the college's response is legally grounded in the Annotated Code of Maryland Education, which says school officials "may deny access to the buildings or grounds" to a person who "acts in a manner that disrupts or disturbs the normal educational functions" of the school.

    The college's code of conduct does not address what types of in-class writing might represent a danger, and Davis says Whittington did not commit a conduct violation.

    She says the college is not trying to punish Whittington and has encouraged his professors to help him continue his education online while he is barred from campus. "I think we're concerned about his well-being as well as that of others," she says. "It really comes down to safety concerns."

    In analyzing the Virginia Tech murders, an appointed panel said one contributing factor was poor internal communication between university professors and administrators regarding Cho's disturbing patterns of behavior.

    Whittington's willingness to embrace help and the lack of threats in his writing differentiate him from Cho, says Dr. Aradhana Sood, a Richmond, Va., psychiatrist who served on the panel that reviewed the shootings. But she says the community college's response was reasonable, given the intensity of Whittington's professed fixation on killing.

    "The question becomes whether further examination of the issues is appropriate, and I think that it is," Sood says. "You don't want to be sorry later."

    Joe Davis, a spokesman for the nonprofit Veterans of Foreign Wars, sympathizes with both Whittington and the college.

    "Using the written medium to communicate his feelings is a good thing," Davis says, after reading Whittington's essay. "Although it may be totally alien to others, it could be entirely therapeutic for him. The school does not understand this and did what they believed was right."

    Despite his frustration with the college, Whittington says he desperately wants to get back to classes. He was attending school full-time and says he has not settled on a career goal, though the possibility of teaching has crossed his mind.
    He says he has scheduled an evaluation with his Veterans Affairs psychologist and is confident that she will tell administrators that he isn't a threat to other students. Whittington says he is also working with the Veterans of Foreign Wars to get a social worker or lawyer to sort through options.

    O'Doherty says Whittington is trying to do what's asked of him. But she worries that if he doesn't get back to classes soon, "he's going to just crawl into a shell and not come out."

    "It's really hard," Whittington says of the idle time. "I'm just trying to stay as busy as I can to keep my mind off of things."

    The Essay:

    War is a drug. When soldiers enter the military from day one, they begin to train and are brain washed to fight and to handle situations in battle. We train and train for combat, and then when we actually go to war, it is reality and worse than what we have trained for. We suffer through different kinds of situations. The Army never taught how to deal with our stress and addictions.

    War is a drug because when soldiers are in the Infantry, like me, they get used to everything, and fast. I got used to killing and after a while it became something I really had to do. Killing becomes a drug, and it is really addictive. I had a really hard time with this problem when I returned to the United States, because turning this addiction off was impossible. It is not like I have a switch I can just turn off. To this day, I still feel the addictions running through my blood and throughout my body, but now I know how to keep myself composed and keep order in myself, my mind. War does things to me that are so hard to explain to someone that does not go through everything that I went through. That's part of the reason why I want to go back to war so badly, because of this addiction.

    Over in Iraq and Afghanistan killing becomes a habit, a way of life, a drug to me and to other soldiers like me who need to feel like we can survive off of it. It is something that I do not just want, but something I really need so I can feel like myself. Killing a man and looking into his eyes, I see his soul draining from his body; I am taking away his life for the harm he has caused me, my family, my country.

    Killing is a drug to me and has been ever since the first time I have killed someone. At first, it was weird and felt wrong, but by the time of the third and fourth killing it feels so natural. It feels like I could do this for the rest of my life and it makes me happy.

    There are several addictions in war, but this one is mine. This is what I was trained to do and now I cannot get rid of it; it will be with me for the rest of my life and hurts me that I cannot go back to war and kill again, because I would love too. When I stick my blade through his stomach or his ribs or slice his throat it's a feeling that I cannot explain, but feels so good to me, and I become addicted to seeing and acting out this act of hate, and violence against the rag heads that hurt our country. Terrorists will have nowhere to hide because there are hundreds of thousands of soldiers like me who feel like me and want their revenge as well.


    Veteran barred from Community College of Baltimore County because of essay on combat - baltimoresun.com
     
  2. Nov 29, 2010 at 6:30 AM
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    SOSHeloPilot

    SOSHeloPilot Well-Known Member

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    Sadly, I am not surprised. I work with PTSD veterans (am one also) and I also see some (big & small) companies not hiring PTSD veterans because of what they call "known potential liability".

    IMO, in the future, the more PTSD that you have, the more difficult it will be to get a job.

    I am glad that I am retired now ... but I am very concerned for the younger veterans.
    .
     
  3. Nov 29, 2010 at 6:57 AM
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    luk8272

    luk8272 [OP] Poodoo

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    Its a shame, I have a buddy that is career infantry, and its difficult for him to hang out with us, not for us but for him. Its like he's never comfortable. All we can do is be there if he needs us. He keeps saying he won't re-enlist but then he does, he's got it in his head that he can't make a living outside of the military.
     
  4. Nov 29, 2010 at 7:06 AM
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    badguybuster

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    That is the world we now live in. You fight for your country, kill for your brothers, and get treated like shit when you return. Just friggin pathetic. He has my prayers.
     
  5. Nov 29, 2010 at 7:09 AM
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    KenpachiZaraki

    KenpachiZaraki Its Wicked Flow BITCHES!!

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    To some people thats all they know what to do. They're never the same after they join.
     
  6. Nov 29, 2010 at 7:11 AM
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    luk8272

    luk8272 [OP] Poodoo

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    Where this was originally posted there were a few that said they felt sorry for him but wouldn't want him sitting next to them. WTF. My reply was this:

    I'd be willing to sit next to this guy. We can't put our lively hood in his hands one moment then turn our backs on him the next. If we won't go out and fight our wars the least we can do is help those that have given so much for us. He was and is willing to give his life for people he doesn't know, including those that don't want him around or to speak his mind, a freedom that he fought for.

    To those that don't particularly want him around would you sit next to Stephen King or any Novel writer or Film maker that does horror movies/books? What about those actors/actresses that play the roles, to take a role like that says something about ones self.
     
  7. Nov 29, 2010 at 7:13 AM
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    90YotaPU

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    This world is getting worse everyday. The prisoners have more rights than the people fighting for us. I would say "someone shoot me now", but I'll probably get hauled in for an evaluation too.
     
  8. Nov 29, 2010 at 7:34 AM
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    NumNutz

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    Regardless of everyones opinion, this is just really sad and I wish this solider and others that struggle with this disease the best. :(
     
  9. Nov 29, 2010 at 10:46 AM
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    mntbiker2008

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    x2 I have quite a few of my friends (who are like brothers to me) in the military right now, all getting ready to be deployed to Afganistan. I just hope and pray every day that they come back like they left here and not in a box. :( I have met a few PTSD Veterans and feel real bad for them.
     
  10. Nov 29, 2010 at 11:01 AM
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    jdkeller

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    I feel bad for the guy. However, that was a pretty gruesome essay. He is more than welcome to write it, but he should know that people are going to react. And in this case the reaction was a ban and evaluation. But IIRC the article said he complied. So good for him.
     
  11. Nov 29, 2010 at 11:18 AM
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    Lost_Humanity

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    I have to agree with the school. It is their responsibility to ensure the safety of all their students, and when red flags are raised, it is the right thing to run them down.

    That being said, I hope that they are working closely with Whittington to help him continue his education until after his psych evaluation clears him. It sounds like keeping busy and having goals is good therapy for him.
     
  12. Nov 29, 2010 at 11:55 AM
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    stmpjmpr

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    I have a daughter in college, and would be very concerned if someone wrote such an essay and was still on campus. The reason being he talks of wanting to go back to kill someone so he can feel good about himself. I appreciate what he has done,but feel the Army has dropped the ball when returning vets get let go without proper eval. cant blame the school. the dude is scary in what he wrote.
     
  13. Nov 29, 2010 at 12:09 PM
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    luk8272

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    But we have to note that he has already seen a psych. and is on meds. Thus he has taken the proper steps to being free and clear. The school is sending him back for a re-evaluation. Which he is doing without much complaining. Because he has already done it once and can do it again. I think he has already done the proper thing and is still doing so, in order to achieve his goals.
     
  14. Nov 29, 2010 at 12:13 PM
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    jdkeller

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    Agreed. But you still need the common sense knowing how fragile today's society is. Stating that you love to kill and want to go back to do it more is well deserved of scrutiny. Write what you want. Just know that there are after effects/affects(?). Your behavior, speech included, is obviously tolerated differently in a military setting than in a school setting.
     
  15. Nov 29, 2010 at 12:29 PM
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    luk8272

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    I do understand what the school is saying however when the teacher asked him to write about his experience what the heck did they expect? Being forced to kill another person or be killed yourself is not an easy thing to except, and what will happen to a person that must do this is tragic to say the least. But what are they hoping to accomplish by making him get re-evaluated? He has passed already based on his choosing. Showing what he is made of. When he passes again then what? Are they just going to say I'm sorry that we put you through this? To me this is a step that could have caused more harm than good, depending on the man. They could have spoken to him in person about this with out taking public action. Or maybe not made his paper public until the matter was better understood or taken care of. I just think that the school kinda fumbled the ball a bit, well within their rights, but in the end the school asked for his report.

    Oh and I think the fragile society is the damned problem. These soldiers fight to ensure that you can be fragile and speak your mind, yet they have to become hardened outcast to do it. Then when he tries to do better for himself he gets condemned for the feelings he had to create to survive and deal with what he had to do on god forbid a daily basis.
     
  16. Nov 29, 2010 at 1:05 PM
    #16
    OffroadToy

    OffroadToy This ain't Dodge City, and you ain't Bill Hickok

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    I think they school is just covering their own butts and looking out for the welfare of the other students. I read the essay and from what it sounded like he REALLY got off on killing people...
     
  17. Nov 29, 2010 at 1:11 PM
    #17
    Incognito

    Incognito μολὼν λαβέ

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  18. Dec 2, 2010 at 8:27 AM
    #18
    nd

    nd Radical Town. It's a hell of a place!

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    Thats extremely sad. i have to say i'm torn. on one hand, he knows he has a problem and he's addressing it. on the other hand, he admitted to loving killing and "not having a switch" and "its impossible to turn off" and "i have to kill to feel like myself" all of those are major MAJOR red flags. the question is, is the current counseling and meds enough to keep those urges in check? i cant blame the suits because they are responsible for the schools safety and the dudes essay was definitely disturbing. i know quite a few vets, and most of them are not happy about hte lives they've had to take. they aren't ashamed (at least not publically) but at the same time they dont revile in the experience. the fact that this guy fell in love with killing makes me wonder if he wasn't already predisposed to that kind of behavior and his experience in the military just "woke it up". it mentioned him being unconscious for 5 days after the last blast and forgetting huge chunks of his childhood. maybe the swelling from the blast tweaked something in his head. who knows. all i know, is i feel bad for the guy and it sucks he's going through this. but at the same time i dont feel its unreasonable for the heads of the school to be cautious. we all have to be cautious in our professions. electricians use big rubber gloves (at least in this plant). welders use a mask. these school officials are simply taking the precautions they need to to make sure he's safe for himself and for the other students. anyone who was raised around guns and knows proper gun safety knows that if you're ever in doubt, check hte chamber. even if someone hands you a gun and says "its ok, its unloaded" you'd be careless if you didn't confirm that for yourself. with his background he could be very dangerous, so they're just double checking to make sure the gun isn't loaded
     
  19. Dec 2, 2010 at 8:35 AM
    #19
    01tacoprerunner

    01tacoprerunner Lifted 'n Locked 4WD Prerunner

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    subed to finish reading later
     
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