Brutally honest and deeply disturbing, former infantryman Charles D. Whittington Jr.’s essay about his addiction to killing and war can charitably be called an anguished cry for help. The Baltimore Sun posted its interview with Whittington, 24, in which he reads the essay in a soft, still monotone at odds with the rage and pain evidently brimming inside of him.
Whittington told the Sun he submitted the essay to the campus paper it after it earned an ‘A’ in English class.
Killing is a drug to me and has been ever since the first time I killed someone. At first it was weird and felt wrong. But by the time of the third or fourth killing, it feels so natural, it feels like I can do this for the rest of my life, and it makes me happy. There are several addictions in war, but this one is mine … It is with me for the rest of my life. It hurts me that I cannot go back to war and kill again, because I would love too.
Whittington served from 2005 to 2008 and was an infantry squad leader stationed in Mosul, Iraq, where he took part in nighttime raids that targeted insurgent leaders. He suffered back, leg, arm and hand injuries in roadside bomb attacks, ultimately landing him stateside for good.
He told the Sun that his essay about killing was really about his guilt at leaving and the intense desire he felt to fight alongside his buddies. Drinking heavily to dull the pain, Whittington wound up in prison after a drunken driving accident that injured several people.
After his release, he began writing for himself and then began speaking at local churches about his experiences. School helped too — he earned a 4.0 his first semester — but sharing his writing publicly was a big deal.
When I stick my knife through his stomach or ribs or slice his throat, it is a feeling that I cannot explain. It feels so good to me, and I feel addicted to seeing and acting out this act of hate and violence against the ragheads that hurt our country. Terrorists will have nowhere to hide because there are hundreds of thousands of soldiers who feel like me, who want their revenge as well.
Friends told the Sun Whittington was “harmless to everyone but himself,” but school administrators, referencing the Virginia Tech shootings, have decided to err on the side of caution.
“My issues here are from the war,” Whittington told the Sun. “This has nothing to do with the school. It took me three years to write something or say something. And when I got comfortable enough to actually talk about it, I get disciplined for it and get suspended.”
America can embrace the Salvatore Giuntas of these wars, but can it embrace the Charles Whittingtons? Their scars are deep and black, forged by experiences we cannot fathom, with wounds agonizing and repugnant. Will we have the courage and strength to look at them and heal them?
[UPDATE: Army records say C.J. Whittington left the Army as an E-4 and his MOS was 92F, which is a petroleum supply specialist, serving with the 27th CS MSB, 4th BCT, 1st Cavalry (now Armored). His record does not reflect he received a Purple Heart or a Combat Action Badge. Army Times has interviewed Whittington, and he said he was not an infantry squad leader, but that he held a dual MOS: 11B and 92F. Thought y’all would want to know.]