I just got this email today from a major in the military. I am gratified that I helped someone think for themselves and make a conscientious decision…but I suspect it was more his experiences and his own considerations that led him to this point.
A while back you wrote a blog post that may have catalyzed a major life decision for me. My life will be definitely be changing because of it, whether for the better or not remains to be seen but I wanted to thank you. You wrote a post dealing with realities of war, specifically on killing. I won’t bore you with the details about how exactly it affected me but rather just to that it very strongly moved me and upset me deeply. I have decided to stop killing because of it. I indirectly caused deaths in a military mission maybe 8 years ago (though I’m not sure , I relive the scene so vividly and often that it might as well been last week). As I did it I didn’t really think of much other that making sure I executed the task well and I remember being nervous in that respect and then just elated that the other guys didn’t succeed at their task of killing me. Months afterwards it started to sink in and I felt sick. About 4 years ago I killed again but it was not so indirect. I had pulled the trigger myself, ending 2 lives directly and helped with a few more that day as well. I was in zero danger of harm myself and maybe that’s why it affected me different. Nausea hit quickly (minutes), then depression/anxiety/nightmares. The weight of it just kept coming down and down more and more until I had to begin to rationalize to keep it from overwhelming me. I did a pretty good job of it until your post snapped the flimsy shell and ruined what I had carefully constructed over the years. I realized that I can choose my own fate and not have to choose between following orders/accomplishing the mission and being true to my ethics. I’ve decided to separate from the military after 12+ years service and come the end of June I will be a civilian. I’ve carefully thought the decision through and weighed the pros and cons. Believe me, giving up that military retirement was not terribly easy (it’s so much money) but, I keep thinking of the idea that I may be called upon to kill again in the next 8 years and no amount of money is worth it. Thank you for helping me break through my self delusion. I enjoy your blog and I think you should know that while you may not get through to everyone, you are doing good (IMHO) during your short stay on planet earth.
It sounds to me like he was being human, and aware of it.
My correspondent did not say, but it might have been my Shades of Gray post.