An Army veteran, Charles Whittington got an A for an essay on the thrill of fighting and killing in Iraq. Then he was suspended by Community College of Baltimore County, reports the Baltimore Sun. College officials fear Whittington is a threat to his classmates.
Combat is addictive, Whittington wrote. Killing “is something that I do not just want but something I really need so I can feel like myself.” His instructor urged him to publish the paper; it appeared in the campus newspaper. Two weeks later, he was barred from campus until cleared by a psychologist.
“We all believe in freedom of speech, but we have to really be cautious in this post- Virginia Tech world,” says college spokesman Hope Davis, referring to the 2007 massacre of 32 people by a student gunman.
But Whittington, 24, says that he has his violent impulses under control with the help of counseling and medication and that the college is unfairly keeping him from moving forward with his life.
Whittington was unconscious for five days after a roadside explosion. In addition to back, neck and arm injuries, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic- stress disorder and medically discharged in 2008.
He started classes at the community college this spring, earning a perfect 4.0 average in his first semester.
Whittington seems baffled at the reaction to his work and the comparisons to Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter. “That guy wasn’t a veteran or a soldier, and he was mad at the school,” he says. “What I’m writing about has nothing to do with the school. Really, it’s through writing that I’ve been able to deal with things.”
Not all veterans on campus support Whittington. 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.
Whittington, a full-time student who is considering a teaching career, has scheduled an evaluation with his Veterans Affairs psychologist, who he believes will confirm that he’s not a threat.