The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

One Veteran’s Controversial College Essay

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Sitting in his jail cell, serving a three-month sentence for drunk driving, veteran Charles Whittington found refuge in writing. It was perhaps the only safe and healthy outlet that helped him deal with his severe anxiety, stress and PTSD which resulted from his three tours in the Middle East.

When Whittington returned to his home in Southwest Baltimore, he attended college and found his classes to be a challenge that he met head on, earning himself a 4.0 GPA. Yet when Whittington finally found it in himself to let his guard down and reveal his trauma in an essay, it got him kicked out of college.

Whittington writes:

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.

Whittington continues writing:

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.

On one hand, wow, you can easily understand the fear that led to the college administrators’ decision to kick Whittington out of school for fear that he could possibly inflict harm on the teachers and/or students. Whittington’s words, after all, were of a extremely violent nature. The history of school violence in this country has created a culture of nearly zero tolerance when it comes to violence or even the threat of violence (Whittington’s essay did not threaten violence, it spoke of feelings of violence).

Yet on the other hand, civilians have no idea what soldiers go through day in and day out when in combat. As Whittington himself explains, “If you didn’t go through it, you don’t understand.” Taking another person’s life is a brutal reality that all soldiers have to come to grips with. During times of war, that harsh reality essentially preserves their own life (kill or be killed). Also, as Whittington explained, it’s not only about survival, it’s about killing to protect your country and all your loved ones that live in it. If killing is a part of survival, and if killing is part of a soldier’s job description (so that they may preserve the freedoms of their country and the people that they love), it’s easy to understand Whittington’s words and even sympathize with them.

I encourage everyone to read this Baltimore Sun article and Whittington’s essay so that we can continue this discussion. Was the school right or wrong for kicking Whittington out? Should Whittington have shown more restraint? Is this just another example of how civilians can never truly understand the trauma that our soldiers endure?

Please leave us a comment and let us know how you feel!

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Written by traumalines

January 4, 2011 at 9:17 pm

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