"Killing is a drug to me." Combat vet's college essay gets him banned from school [updated]



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’s essay (pdf, p.12) has gotten him banned from the Community College of Baltimore County until he gets a psychological exam.

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?

[via The Baltimore Sun]

[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.]


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  1. Stephen Austin on

    It appears here that the college administrators need counselling on how to deal with veterans. It is a shame that the college administrator was so far removed from the military experience that he/she could not relate or accept from an academic perspective the experiences of the student veteran. This appears to be a panic response by an undereducated, inexperienced functionary.

  2. I would like to know if there is someone out there who served with this guy. I want to know when and where he stuck his knife in someone and if this guy is for real. I think he is full of crap and is looking for some attention. I’ve been to Iraq a few times and I believe his issues are more deep then his experiance in Iraq. I have met way too many people in the Army that claim to have killed a bunch of people, but I know the truth. Most of these disturb people never even left the wire and only hunger for attention. So if you served with this guy please step forward and tell us the truth.

  3. Unfortunately, this was more common than we’ve heard about. There are so many young people in the military that do what they are told to do. At first its scary, then they get immune to it, to the point where it doesn’t phase them anymore. I think that the school was right in banning him until he gets checked out pyschologically. they aren’t just banning him because of what he wrote, to me, they seem genuinely concerned for him. Its unfortunate that he didn’t receive the proper therapy after he returned from war. There are still many people like Whittington in the world right now, and there needs to be additional steps taken to ensure these people get the appropriate treatment post war.

  4. Writing is supposed to be one of the best outlets for issues such as these that plague the mind. The school obviously does not know how to deal with veterans needs. I would not want to attend a school such as this where I would be afraid to open up during writing assignments or to even become creative with some fictional writing.

  5. It is obvious that the school administration has never served down range and would never willingly to do so. Yet we continue to put our necks, blood and sweat on the line, and on top of that our family pays for it too. They can go back and complain all day long in their nice campus and homes. We will still protect them no matter what, it is our duty. As it is their duty to help us when we need it, not put us down.

  6. I don’t know, something about this doesn’t seem right. Seems like this guy has deep rooted problems that reach far past any experiences he had in Mosul. For all we know, this guy manned an ECP or sat in a watch tower for 12 months.

  7. John: You don’t know what this guy has done. Who is to say whether or not he did these things. Just because you served in Iraq doesn’t mean that you had to do the same things this man claims to have done. The war is different in every AO. Also, during certain time frames of the war the battle is fought entirely different than it is now. People say that hand to hand combat is highly unlikely, but that does not make it impossible. People do things they are not proud of here. It is hard for some to talk about them. This man simply found an outlet and he was shunned because people who have not been to war or who are back stateside are untouched by all of this. Though it is a terrible thing this man writes about, whether it is true or not, nonetheless there are people that suffer like this man or even worse.

  8. 2005-2008…Im a grunt in the marines. This guy talks about being in hand to hand combat. This guy have never been in hand to hand. Im sorry to say but this guy is clearly a boot looking for attention.

  9. This is deeply disturbing, yet another soldier who may or may not have participated in actual killing of someone. What this individual describes are fantasies, the grotesque way he goes into vivid detail on this subject shows his deep inner need for help. Just the quoted passages show a great reason for the school to have him checked out, he does present a danger to other students. Most soldiers who have had kill combatants don’t talk about it and when you do, its on a level far away from this. This individual is perverting war and borders on confessing to war crimes that would warrant an investigation. This is disturbing and I’m glad the school did what they did, I agree with “john”, he sounds like he’s getting the attention he’s looking for and thats all, while making the rest of the military look like some sort of blood thirsty motley crew.

  10. They should fire the editor. Not for printing the subject matter of the article but for printing such a poorly written article.

  11. I believe the school made the right decision in this case. I have the deepest admiration and respect for service members who have served downrange yet I dont believe that being a vet should exclude you from criticism. I believe the school made the right decision. As a former teacher and current member of the military I would definately be concerned and seek help for an individual in my class or squadron who spoke in such a manner. I hope our military can devise more ways to help vets assimilate back to civilian life after they are exposed to violent situations.

  12. Mike, I’m not saying he didn’t leave the wire, but any combat arms soldiers knows, that there are certain individuals that are left in the TOC or in the company area, because they unable to perform their job. I have served in Mosul and Baghdad and have been in some pretty rough situations. I am just saying, listening to this guys story makes me think he is full of crap. Anybody who says that the military doesn’t give you every oppurtunity to seek help is also full of crap. You have to want help and I have some close friends that have been effected by the war and they have never claimed to be addicted to killing. It never had an effect on me, but people handle things differently and people who are truly disturb don’t just come right out and say it, they act on it. Sorry if this sounds crude, but I have served with outstanding soldiers and horrible soldiers who have never left the wire and they are the one who brag when they get home and it makes me sick to my stomach. If this guy is telling the truth, then I hope he gets the help he needs, because there is obviously some deeper issues.

  13. lol,,,,,, wow…… im wondering how so many “vets” rack up all these kills, and with K-bars!!!! lol, its so insane how these assholes make all vets seem like their a bunch of brain dead morons…… I’m so sick of these clowns racking up the dissability becuse they fake PTSD. its all about the money… hell, i have been blown up, picked up body parts, unloaded the mk-19 on iraqis and im ok….. o ya, i have a 4.0 at a community college lol,,, It’s a COMMUNITY COLLEGE!!!! lol, I cant wait for someone to be an english critic on my comment….. go ahead…..

  14. [comment edited]
    o ya, even after manning machine guns i still never killed anyone. its not that easy…….. im also probley a [deleted] shot…

  15. People who actually have these types of afflictions do not normally publicly announce them. If they had found a personal journal or something that had this type of writing then I would say they were possibly true. But for someone to write something like this as an assignment for English class seems pretty damn brazen. Also, he starts talking about enjoying the killing and being “addicted”, but then in the second excerpt he refers to it as being more like revenge killings. Finally, he says “When I stick my knife through his stomach or ribs or slice his throat”. Just how many people did he kill with a knife, or is he butchering his kill, and I would think that during your first hand-to-hand experience your mind would be reeling too much to interpret feelings from each of those actions as you performed them. I personally have not taken anyones life that way, but I never remember much of anything about actual fights that I have been in. I’m just saying, strikes me as being a work of fiction; someone should be able to corroborate his story if it is true.

  16. It’s amazing how quick we are to get on the bandwagon of “No way, he didn’t do those things!”

    He probably didn’t. So what? It’s writing. Stephen King writes in the first person about far worse in his novels.

    The guy got injured, got out of the Army and went to prison. He wrote morbid ( and from the exerpts quite tame) stories about killing. Turned them in at the junior college he was going to. Turns out: crazy vet card doesn’t validate his parking!

    This story is a non-starter. The writer really didn’t look far to find a subject worthy of writing about and selected this guy; a veteran (who is a ex-con, by the way) and his lame, stabby stories. Nice try, Joe Gould.

  17. I’m with critics. Probably was working an ECP or a guard tower. Or better yet, he was probably brewing coffee in the TOC. A good way to track this guy down is finding out which units were in Mosul during this guy’s time frame. Also, does he even have a CIB? I mean, on top of that, driving a knife into someone does make the claim that he engaged in hand to hand. Where’s his Bronze Star w/ a V device? This guy is like a thousand FOB queens before him, claiming to have done this or that, just to sound like a modern day John J. Rambo, but yet probably has nothing (CIB, etc) to back his talking up.

  18. I’m with the rest of the vets here. I was in the 173rd in Kirkuk 2003-04, and in the Triangle of Death(Muhmudiha) 2006-07 with the 10th Mtn, now in USASOC, and can tell the POGs that just want attention. I think this guy was playing Call of Duty on his Xbox while the rest of his platoon was on tower guard or the ECP. If you ask most soldiers that have confirmed kills, they will not brag or even try to elaborate on the experience. Someone who has served with this guy needs to share the truth, so that those we defend will be able to tell the difference in real experiences and a fantasy.

  19. I have never been to war and most certainly never killed anyone first of all. Bottom line here is not really about whether he killed someone or not so let’s look at the core issue which is; “A veteran of a foreign war gets kicked out of college for writing about his experiences in the war in his/her own personal details”. That being said leaving this particular person (and my own personal feelings aside) It is definitely at the CC’s discretion weather they suspend him or not. That also being said he has the right to appeal said decision. At the core though becomes the question of, “Can anyone truly speak their mind no matter what that may consist of”. The constitution tells us that we have certain freedoms as long as those freedoms do not interfere with another’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This account may be disturbing but it really does not violate any one’s rights to said freedoms. That is the core issue it does not matter what this guy did or what he didn’t do. I got it some of you are super Hooah and want to call the ball on this guy, you’re entitled to do so. Plain and simple the guy gets the exam he gets help if he needs it and then goes back and continues to write about experiences which he had or didn’t have. Again imagine PVT. Joe Snuffy who really did have these experiences getting disciplined because he wanted to share his experience in a creative writing assignment with others or maybe just because It makes him feel better to talk about it. In that instance it’s kind of the wrong decision to discipline the vet. Again this is the CC’s decision on what action to take but hopefully this is not the start of a trend. And for what it’s worth and being someone studying psychology since the age of 13 it seems like this guy is definitely in need of some kind of help…Those who are really weak are the ones that can not admit they are week and seek help to move on and do great things”

  20. With the ribbon happy military we live in today, you would think this dude would have gotten a combat V for slaying bodies with a k-bar. I’m not saying he didnt get wounded but, is their a purple heart to back his claims????? I think this boot got hazed way too much and never did anything. His unit probley sent him to stand post all deployment, and on his time off he played too much Xbox and wrote horror stories back home..

  21. I bet he is just trying to make up stories to help make himself believe he did something over there… its kinda funny how his imagination is creating his “PTSD”….

  22. Again It’s kind of funny the people on here are only looking at the person and not the whole underlying reason why this article was even written in the first place honestly its kind of unintelligent. Divorce yourselves from what ever you think about this guy and comment on the issue at hand…..just a suggestion.

  23. First, his essay should never been published in a college paper. Some things should be left between the individual writing the paper and the professor. Second, most Soldiers that have killed someone usually never talk about their experiences at all. I respect him for his time in service and his commitment to the nation and his fellow Soldiers, but he created a negative image for the Army and for the military in general. Not everyone in combat arms comes back home with PTSD and desire to kill people in war. You are talking about your personal experience in one deployment, but you’re telling a story to people who have never been there and done that. You’re saying that everyone has the same mindframe as you do, which is not true.

  24. look most of us who served have all come home and the stories of all these hardcore fob warriors and know they are full of s..t. the ones who actually went outside the wire and had to perform in actual combat (hand to hand or gun battles) dont or wont talk about it with people who werent there. they know most people just wont understand.
    the second part of all this, you have to look deeper into the article and why it was written. this is just another attempt by the media to get us all to the shrink because we are all just trained , non-thinking killing machines. the liberal press will do anything to make the military look bad in anyway possible

  25. Mr. Sandy

    OK, the real issue here. Soldier gets removed from a public education facility because they are worried about him acting out what he is writing. If he is laying claim that these incidents are factual and that he has a desire to kill people, then they should be worried. If his story is a work of fiction, and is publicized as such, then there is no issue and he should be reinstated. But it says in the article he reported to The Baltimore Sun that “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.” Sounds to me like he pushing this as real.
    They did not throw him out, they suspended him until he got a proper psychological evaluation and was deemed not a threat. I do not see where there was any undo affliction. The only problem here is whether these are substantiated issues, or is it just a soldier who, for whatever reasons, felt he needed to embelish on reality. Which, by the way, does make some people think sorely of us who are still over here doing what we do. Only 1% of the population will have the first hand view of what it looks like here, the other 99% have to make their personal opinions and decisions based on what we bring back in the way of experience. If his accounts and reflections are true, then I feel there is no story here, the school acted appropriately.

  26. One other thing Mr. Sandy, you said we were looking at the individual “and not the whole underlying reason why this article was even written in the first place”. The underlying reason being he had an English class writing assignment. Noone so far has said that the topic was something that should be discussed or not, only whether or not the essay gave the school justification to suspend him. That then relies on whether or not they are factual depictions.

  27. This gentleman may or may not be lying, from my experience in Iraq I would say he is probably embellishing. I know what it was like and can say from experience soldiers who have had to use deadly force would in the majority of cases never discuss it in public. Let alone in a forum such as a school writing assignment.

  28. I get really tired of people trying tell people what soldiers are thinking about. So many people blog about how often this happens in the military. The truth is, that it doesn’t happen as much as people think. This video makes me sick to my stomach to hear this guy even talk. He has no clue what he is talking about and was probably a horrible soldier to begin with. All the people on here who have never served in combat but for some reason know what we are thinking should just stop trying to tell experianced soldiers what is going on. We live it everyday and we know what the Army and other branches do and don’t do to help these people out. The want to make us look like a bunch of brain washed baby killers, so they publish this crap to sell papers. I know there are alot of soldiers that feel the same way and wish that the civilian should just let us take care of our own.

  29. I was in Iraq, and extended during the surge 5 months. This guy is Full of SH*T! I got my CIB and PH. the only truth is the feeling of wanting to go back, not just to kill, but the feeling to just go back.

  30. What difference does it make what he did or did not do? That’s not the point! These are HIS feelings, and not a single one of us has the right to tell him what he can or can not feel.

    Can you see what happens now? Other combat vets who have any kind of issues will now be afraid to get help for fear of being expelled from school.
    Is that fair to THEM?
    This entire situation should have been handled much differently. From the teacher who asked him to “make it a little more colorful” after his first draft, right to the Dean, who barred him.
    It’s no wonder there are so many suicides amongst our returning heroes! Not even their brothers will support them!

  31. I do find it very telling that if you go to the pdf of the news paper. His essay is on page 12. If you look on page 14 or so you will see the top 31 scary moives of all time. MOST OF WHICH ARE ABOUT KILLING. So it is ok to promote killing porn but not let a soilder talk about his feelings of the real thing???

  32. look i have served as well as alot of people on this site the guy in the video is one of my good friends and all we have to do is to believe him i have had my troubles so has everyone else it come in all shapes and sizes so for all of you that say that he is wrong or that he is not telling the truth well then you are oblivious about the whole thing and you were never in danger you were a fobbit or just one of those people that dont give a rats a$$ about the U.S. Armed Forces. I dont understand how you all can lay down at night happy with yourself after putting this vet down about what he did over there.

  33. Well, Dirty, the bottom line is this: if this soldier is being earnest in his article, then he needs to seek help and is definitely a threat to the general public. He may not envision himsself acting this out against his fellow Americans, but if he is put into a stressful situation then he is way ahead of your average citizen to reaching the point of crossing the line. If he is embelishing on the situation, then he is just making people worry about the rest of us who are serving. Doesn’t really matter if you’re a fobbit or not, some fobbits have fired more rounds down range than their traveling counterparts. Most of the FOBs here have been in fire fights for hours at a time taking every kind of ground assault imaginable. If he is being fully honest, then you as his friend need to make sure that he is getting the care that he needs. If you served, then you know that there is help available and should know where to get it. Even though I doubt HIS story, that doesn’t mean I think it is impossible or that noone out there has lived something similar. If he put the truth out there like that, he is either asking for help or he is so comfortable with the thoughts that he has that they no longer have the “shock value” that they have for everyone else, and that is serious.

  34. So many of you are missing the point. He isn’t being kicked out of school. He just has to go for a psych eval.

    If you were in charge of a bunch of people, and someone comes up and says “I am addicted to killing, it is the only thing that makes me feel whole”, you would be an idiot to not make sure they don’t present a danger.

  35. Even if he is embellishing, which he most likely is… what is the point of “creative writing” if the student is pressured to edit the creativity? Would the same school have sent Steven King to get a psychological exam had he submitted writing assignments there? This is where I become confused with the school’s decision… not with the validity of the individual’s story.

  36. This guys is full of [comment edited]!!!

    “When I stick my knife through his stomach or ribs or slice his throat, it is a feeling that I cannot explain.”….?!?!?!?

    What a joke! How many petrol supply specialists engage in hand to hand with the enemy?!?!? NONE!!!

    This buttdart gives troops who really do have post deployment issues a bad name.

    What an attention seeking wh0re!!!

  37. The guy does sound full of shit but who are we to judge on what his “feelings” are? Maybe an attention seeking individual who didnt quite get what he wanted in life growing up. Has anyone asked if he actually did this or just living a fantasy? Majority are quick to say that a true Sodlier/Marine would never talk about killing someone or any of that shit, not true. I’ve known people who actually feel relieved to talk about their experiences because it makes them feel better. The days of sucking it up and be a man are about done. Mental health is no joke. Talking actually helps, putting this publicly may not have been the right avenue of approach but at least it was something. And before you pundits jump on my ass, I did my time in the infantry, USMC. So shut your pie holes!

  38. This tool is full of it. There are a majority of us here who have been through that place 3 times or more. I am a combat medic and I have first hand experience like alot of these guys. This dude is the exact kind of person who gets out of the army, claims he still wants to fight, blah blah, and sucks up all the disability money available. So when the war is over and the rest of us who still continue to fight, for eachother, will have nothing left because it was all sucked up by some lying d-bag. To all the grunts and tankers here, you know who this guys is! He is that dork at the bar talking loudly about his war “experience” to try and pick up chicks because his mom didn’t love him.

  39. So he killed a bunch of people by stabbing them in the stomach, ribs, and slitting throats as a refuler?


    This clownfish is nothing more than a disgrace to the rest of us. His psychological problems were there before he ever enlisted.

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