Veteran barred for essay on killing

An Army veteran’s essay on the thrill of killing in Iraq earned an A from the instructor — and a suspension from campus, until a psychologist says the vet isn’t a threat to his classmates.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  A trustee objects to campus subsidies for left-wing speakers and “evil” theater.

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  1. “One of the most troubling reasons men love war is the love of destruction, the thrill of killing. In his superb book on World War II, The Warriors,J. Glenn Gray wrote that ‘thousands of youths who never suspect the presence of such an impulse in themselves have learned in military life the mad excitement of destroying.’ It’s what Hemingway meant when he wrote, ‘Admit that you have liked to kill as all who are soldiers by choice have enjoyed it at some time whether they lie about it or not.'” — Esquire, November 1984 “Why Men Love War,” by William Broyles Jr.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    My first reaction: I’d have to read the essay to decide if the school was going over the edge or not.

    So I read it.

    For a community college essay, it’s not bad. (Assuming that it fulfills the requirements of whatever the assignment was.)

    And now I can say that yes, the school’s gone over the edge.

    But academics, like all people, fear what they do not understand. And most academics don’t really understand violence. They’ve never experienced it, they have no aptitude for it, and so it scares them.

    So I don’t BLAME the school for what it did in the sense that someone made a bad decision and could have done otherwise — it really had no choice. It was reacting from fear and schools don’t know how else to handle people whose experiences are so foreign.

    But I do think it was a bad decision, nonetheless. I suppose that the solution is to have people of more broad horizons making these sorts of decisions.

  3. Those pesky people who have life experiences not shared by community college instructors.

  4. Why do people react so hard when reality surfaces out, if the guy is writing stuffs like this to recover from his own problems, suspension is not the answer but understanding.

  5. The school doesn’t think that the vet can distinguish between taking out an enemy in a combat situation and murdering innocent civilians? Talk about CYA to a ridiculous degree!

  6. Mike Curtis says:

    It’s not surprising that educators commonly make poor decisions. Most haven’t experienced anything outside the confines of the academic institution and have poorly developed problem solving skills (rubrics, portfolios, and matrices notwithstanding).

    From K-12 they withstood the rigors of several teachers’ opinion, based on adminstrative guidance, of course. From HS graduation through post secondary, more and higher level methods of thinking and instruction were infused into minds that had witnessed little more than classroom instruction and controlled socialization. From this point, those ambitious or wealthy enough, self actualized learners, go for post-graduate certificates and qualify to lecture in colleges and universities; thus, perpetuating their institutional bias. Those that have to make a living for themselves right now, well, they take courses taught by the post grads in order to gain enough credentials to license them to serve as K-12 teachers…it’s like sunrise leading to sunset.

    The sheep will never understand the sheepdog that protects them from the wolves. As such, whenever the sheepdog is at work, the flock will complain about his presence.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    Dirty little secret of the current unpleasantnesses.
    My father’s division, 104th Infantry Division, was so good at night fighting that, when I got to Ft. Benning several wars later, our instruction on night operations was introduced by a lengthy lessons-learned from…the experience of the 104th.
    They were in contact for 195 days and had about 1400 KIA.
    Making some arguable assumptions about who in an Infantry division in WW II in the ETO was exposed to combat, and who in Iraq, and multiplying by time in contact and who in Iraq is exposed to combat…I figure at the rate at which the 104th, known for getting the job done with few casualties, suffered in combat, the KIA in Iraq ought to be about 45,000. So I figured some of my assumptions wrong. It ought to be about 25,000.

    Point is, this is just about right for adrenalin junkies. You can see some of the same in writings of the chopper pilots in Viet Nam. Not all of them, of course. Not even most. Their casualties were high, as well.

    Another difference. The chopper pilots, or the fighter pilots, slept dry and warm. They got to eat. They had potable water. Somebody else was watching the perimeter. Today, our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan spend almost every night, except for the time they are doing night ops, in some kind of base. Even a small COP has far more amenities than the line guys in WW II had.
    My father got wet crossing the Maas River. He stayed wet and shaking cold until the first time he got shot and went to the hospital. About six weeks.
    I talked to a Marine about sending old paperbacks.
    “I read a book a day.” Means he wasn’t throwing away the joker from his deck of cards to lighten his load, as the old Mauldin cartoon had it.
    Certain personality types can put up with repeated deployments under these circumstances because, for as bad as they are, they are a shadow of what the guys in Viet Nam, Korea, or WW II went through. And for some of these guys, the adrenalin rush is the most intense emotion. They are spared much of the rest of the horror of war.
    IOW, no guys like this out of WW II line units. Some fighter pilots, maybe, or some extra-special ops guys who spent most of the war training and then doing some three-day coup de poing that got the headlines.
    For example, there were no memorial ceremonies in my father’s company. Pull the dead guys out where Graves Registration can find them and move on. No time, no circumstances.

    That having been said, guys like this student unfortunate enough to run into a real edumacation person, aren’t going to be seeking their rush and their power on campus. Probably go skydiving and possibly see about being a cop,although this essay would probably scotch that.

  8. Richard, Michael, Mike: put your members back in your pants and stop posturing about how tough those military guys are and how effeminate and weak the teachers are. It’s not only tiresome, it’s also belied by the article itself, which you apparently decided you didn’t have to read.

    “Mike Brittingham, a former Marine who is studying air traffic service, contacted campus safety officers and the president’s office after reading the essay. “Being in the military is certainly not about going out and being addicted to killing people,” he told the Sun.”

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    Put your brain into gear. Sneering is a poor substitute for thought, if you can indeed tell the difference.
    Point is, not speaking to PeterW who is not allowing himself to understand, that there are adrenalin junkies and that for some of them, it’s as big a rush as you’re going to get. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have the circumstances for guys to find out how big a rush that is without getting killed. I’m sure there were other guys like that in other wars, but they were among the horrendous casualty totals.
    Pointing that out is hardly willy-waving. And pointing out that some guys who are still in that stage are not a danger to the rest of us is useful.
    Pointing out further that educrats have a history of this sort of crap–many of the lists of people who may not be discriminated against include veterans, for a reason–is fairly simple. It happens. It’s also stupid.
    Put that up against the number of, say, Muslim student organizations who imply violence against, say, Jewish students and are thrown out…..

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    Oh, yeah. Post Virginia Tech…..?
    There isn’t a single thing an admin could or would do against a nutcase like the VaTech shooter. One prof had a trigger word for her secretary to call the cops when the guy came in to talk to her.
    Profiling a racial minority?
    This guy is a veteran and a white male.
    When it comes to CYA, there is no downside, as there would have been with the VaTech shooter.

  11. Michael E. Lopez says:


    First, I was very clear that I was generalizing. MOST academics are as I describe. (Though I did say that all academics fear what they don’t understand, but that’s because that’s a fairly universal human reaction — and a sensible one.) Some academics, of course, aren’t as I describe.

    Nevertheless, there’s a difference between a former Marine saying “Hey, could you take a look at this guy in case there’s something brewing under the surface?” (a perfectly reasonable reaction to the essay, and all that we can divine he actually did from the article), and an admin’s saying “We’re going to assume that you’re dangerous, and suspend you until you’re cleared by a shrink.”

    That’s a reaction of fear — fear of something that I think I’m fairly well-justified (statistically speaking) in saying is beyond the life experience of most academics.

    Finally, I’d like to point out that I said nothing about how tough military people are, or how weak teachers are. I said NOTHING about military people or how tough they are, though I suppose I relied on the assumption that people in the military have some life experience with violence. My apologies if my assumption that professional soldiers might know something about violence offended you.

    I also said that most academics haven’t experienced a lot of violence in their lives, and that it is foreign to them. As I said above, some of us have — there are a few academics I know who have served in the military, or who grew up in a scrappy part of town, or even who like to box for their exercise. But they are a significant minority on our college campuses. (I know, because I’m there.) Do you think that this makes academics less “tough”? Maybe it does. That would be a separate discussion.

    Now if you’d like to continue the discussion in a polite way, and actually disagree with anything I’ve said, I’m willing to hear it. But if you’re just interested in continuing to misrepresent and insult me, please consider this post the polite verbal equivalent of everyone’s favourite finger gesture.

  12. Richard Aubrey says:

    If the guy were interested in killing for killing’s sake, he’d get a job in a slaughterhouse.
    He’s an adrenalin junkie growing out of it.

  13. Mike Curtis says:


    Stay with the flock. You’ll be protected regardless of what club your member is connected to.

  14. Richard Aubrey says:

    Mike Curtis
    Do the sheepdogs worry about what the sheep think?
    Long discussion in the archives at Neo-neocon about sheepdogs.

  15. Mike Curtis says:


    No. The dogs worry about what the wolves are thinking. The sheep only think sheepish thoughts, and are as such, nothing to worry about. I’ll check out Neo-neocon…thanks.

  16. Mike Curtis says:


    I clocked into Neo-neocon and found a Col Grossman essay that came close to my reflection.

    For the record, I am a military retiree who has been teaching high school math for 11 years. My connection to sheep and dogs is a real life experience…I live in rural Idaho and think that Border Collies are God’s gift to man. What I’ve learned through sharing my life with these creatures is that the predominant difference between sheepdogs and wolves is simply, loyalty. Both are predators, but one is on your side.

    My goodness, have I been living a metaphor?

  17. Richard Aubrey says:

    I don’t have enough land to justify, which is to say occupy a border collie’s time. It would be cruel to make one a yard dog.
    Same reason I’d like to have but won’t get an Anatolian shepherd.
    But I”m hearing coyotes, evenings, so maybe there’d be enough for one of them to do.