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Talking recently with an active soldier and an 11 year old veteran I have gotten a deeper understanding of the violence military training and experience does to the human mind. As we learn more about the brain we discover how complicated and brilliant it is. It is extremely durable but it can be affected by a hard hit in the head during a soccer game or by a terrible experience like needing to kill someone to survive.
Soldiers are praised and honored as they should be for their courage. However, after the military service often they face poverty, rejection and unemployment. Only now after a terrible increase in suicide and violence of former soldiers is the military investing money into therapy and mental health of soldiers. But still they are looking at the effects not the causes of the brain damage suffered in military training and experience.
The movie Soldiers of Conscience a few years ago, with the corporation of the Army present an outstanding understanding of how military training and experience and activities like reflexive killing, killing without conscience, come into direct conflict with one’s conscience and values thus radically changing the brain. But this is information that people do not want to know’ even some so called peacemakers refuse to watch the movie while others just ignore it.
Talking with persons in the military and veterans does not lead to a common political opinion about the military and war but it does lead one to an understanding of how training in violence changes a person.
In the late sixties I spend a year in prison, mostly maximum security, for resistance to the Selective Service system and the Vietnam War as part of the Milwaukee 14 action of destroying 1A selective service files. At the time destroying these records that forced young men to put in a position “to kill or be killed” seem natural. Now talking with these soldiers and veterans I realize how unnatural it is to be trained to kill another human being due to orders, instinct or self defense.
Studies have been done by military and others showing how deeply killing one, even in self defense, affects the human mind and how even the training to kill reflexively can damage a mind. My time in prison was a life changing experience but an uplifting one. I do not know of any soldier or veteran that can say that. Many have survived but all seem to be effected by military training. As the stepmother of the man who recently shot and killed Sikhs praying in a temple said: “He was a completely different person after leaving or being forced out of the military.” He as a young man who had friends of different races and after the military he was full of hate and became a white supremeness.
When someone who is trained to kill human beings reflexively or, even worst, does it, there is something deeply affected in his brain, body and soul. To understand this is why we all need to say to Marquette University, an officer military base for Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force Teach War No More. Killing is not human.