The day after Thanksgiving, we called Charles “C.J.” Whittington, the former soldier who’s gotten a lot of attention for an essay he published in his college newspaper about his “addiction to killing.” We’d interviewed him before, but we wanted to resolve a question about his service record and his medals.
The essay contains some graphic language about killing someone with a knife and the slur “raghead.” His school, the Community College of Baltimore County, responded by ordering him off of campus and out of classes until he gets a clean psychological evaluation.
Some readers said he didn’t sound like someone who had done the things he described, and they didn’t believe him. On one bulletin board, a commenter noted that Whittington’s Army reflected no Combat Action Badge or Purple Heart, which arguably he would have earned if he had taken part in combat and was injured in an attack as he has claimed in interviews. We checked with the Army, and they confirmed he hasn’t got the medals.
Out of fairness, we wanted to reach Whittington to explain the discrepancy. We got his voicemail, days passed, and it seemed like we’d never hear from him again. He had been interviewed by CNN, two of the major networks and local TV news. Maybe he was done.
Well, Whittington called this afternoon.
He had an explanation about the medals that went like this: The year Whittington returned from Iraq wounded, he said, he was in a drunken driving accident that injured several people. Facing civilian and military charges, he opted to dodge the latter by taking a medical discharge. The medals never came and he had more important things to worry about. He went to court and spent three months in jail.
“I think it had a lot to do with that accident I was involved in down in Texas. At the time, I was trying to get my medals, and all that got pushed aside,” he said. “I had to go through civilian court and go through all that mess.”
As for folks who question his story, he seemed to have no interest in defending himself.
“I’m not even worried about it, I know what I did,” he said. “I never got no medals except the basic ones they give.”
He said there is one reason to apply for the medals. During the controversy, an official from the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars approached him. The VFW rep said that he could help Whittington get his Purple Heart because it would eventually mean state college tuition aid for his now-small son and daughter.
“All I’m worried about is the Purple Heart one,” he said. “That’s the only one I’m worried about; Everyone’s making a big deal about it.”
Meanwhile, Whittington told us he underwent a two-hour psych eval at a local VA, and according to him, he was told “there’s no problem, I don’t look like a threat.”
By the time VA releases the eval, the semester will be over. Not that it matters much now. He made up his mind, he’s not going back.
“I’m going to sign in to another school,” Whittington said. “I’m going to transfer. They’re biased against veterans. I’ll find one that’s for veterans or at least will try to help them. It’s ridiculous.”