This past Sunday, I read an article about Charles Whittington, an Iraqi war veteran that has been barred from the Community College of Baltimore County over a recently written paper. In his paper, Charles Whittington wrote that killing “is something that I do not just want but something I really need so I can feel like myself.” (The Baltimore Sun, 2010) Despite receiving an “A” on the paper, “high ranking” college officials barred Whittington from the campus until he undergoes a psychological evaluation.
Despite not making any direct threats, officials banned Whittington because they believe it is better to “be cautious in this post-Virginia Tech world.” (The Baltimore Sun, 2010) This decision was made even though there was/is no similarity in behavior between Whittington and the Virginia Tech gunman. Therefore, the decision to bar Whittington was made not on fact but mere speculation by those that are unable, or unwilling, to understand the plight of today’s newest generation of war-fighting veterans.
Many will argue that freedom of speech violation is the real issue in this situation. However, I believe a much deeper issue is at stake. This situation highlights just how unprepared American society is in dealing with the “untidy” aspects of war. War is hell, both physically and mentally, and for the first time in a long time we as a society find ourselves dealing with a generation of veterans that suffer from ailments of both. We expect our veterans to reintegrate seamlessly into society when they return from their deployments. Yet, when they are unable to do so, we shun them out of fear and misunderstanding. This duality in expectation is unacceptable. Barring Whittington emphasizes just how uncomfortable and unprepared American society is in dealing with those that do not live up to that expectation of seamless integration.
While the decision to bar Whittington is disappointing, I came something even more disappointing, if not downright despicable. At the end of the article, Mike Brittingham, a Marine veteran that also attends the Community College of Baltimore County, expressed his concerns regarding Whittington’s paper. Brittingham was worried that Whittington’s paper “would portray all of them [veterans] in a negative light” and contacted the college’s safety officers and president to voice his concerns. While Brittingham believes the school acted correctly in barring Whittington from the campus, Brittingham actions were glaringly incorrect. Brittingham was so concerned about protecting his precious image that he missed an opportunity to reach out to a fellow veteran in need. It is Brittingham’s selfishness, overreaction, and unwillingness to help a fellow veteran that makes this situation that much more despicable.
The Baltimore Sun. (2010, November 28). Campus Bars Vet Over Essay on Combat’s Allure. Omaha World-Herald, p. 7A.