Hunters and Soldiers: Brothers in Arms

Thanks to the Associated Press (AP), I recently learned about an innovative new method in psychological therapy: killing. Thanks to the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), wounded American soldiers are now attempting to “recover” from their violent trauma by, well, imposing violent trauma onto defenseless animals.

“The PVA learned many years ago that participating in sporting events helped restore self-confidence and that ‘can do’ attitude to someone who has received a catastrophic injury,” said Bill Kokendoffer, president of the Mid-America Chapter of PVA. “We older injured, like myself, try to show the newly injured that life is not over after an injury, just changed.”

“It is about giving them the experience,” added Lew Deal, a retired Marine who serves as director of outdoor programs for PVA. Deal’s venue of choice was the Great Turkey Hunt 2008 in Miami, Oklahoma. Four paralyzed veterans took part this past April. One of them, according to AP, “earned his
inclusion” by getting shot in the head while serving in Afghanistan. The goal, according to organizers, is for the hunt to serve as a “mechanism to set a psychologically wounded service member on a path of healing.” (Reminder: this is not an SNL skit.)

When one of my local daily papers‹AM-NY‹ran this story, it provoked two angry letters in the following day’s edition. “What perverse logic is at play here?” asked the first reader. “How about feeling better about yourself and helping animals, children, or community?” A second reader objected to “victims of violent actions or situations” seeking to “feel better about themselves by creating other victims.”

While it may seem a more obvious choice (for sane people, at least) to give wounded humans an opportunity to heal through efforts that involve compassion and caring, we must never forget the deep connection between volunteer soldiers and the American hunting culture.

I remember a 2004 New York Times article called “In Iraq’s Murky Battle, Snipers Offer U.S. a Precision Weapon.” Author Eric Schmitt explained how American snipers earn all those yellow ribbons we see on passing SUVs. “Soldiering is a violent business, and emotions in combat run high,” Schmitt wrote. “But commanders say snipers are a different breed of warrior — quiet, unflappable marksmen who bring a dispassionate intensity to their deadly task.”

Such intensity is often honed at the expense of animal life.

“Most snipers are familiar with firearms even before joining the armed forces,” Schmitt wrote. He interviewed two snipers who “grew up on farms, and both owned their first rifles before they were 10.” According to Schmitt, these patriotic heroes “fondly remember hunting deer as youngsters.”

You just gotta love the use of the word fondly to “soften” the image.

To further highlight the age-old hunter-soldier connection, let’s flashback to the early days of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. That’s when some gallant American soldiers, in their unswerving quest to spread freedom and democracy, had an after-hours beer party in the bombed-out and neglected
Baghdad Zoo. When all was said and done, one of those soldiers had shot dead a rare Bengal tiger. “Someone was trying to feed the tigers,” the zoo’s night watchman told Reuters. “The tiger bit his finger off and clawed his arm. So his colleague took a gun and shot the tiger.” In that same Reuters
article, we learned: “The tiger was one of two in the zoo-once the largest in the Middle East, today a decrepit collection of dirty cages and sad-looking animals.” (No mention of U.S.-imposed sanctions, of course.)

If we want a better world for animals, we must make no excuse for the hunter. If we want peace for all living things, we must dispense with the unconditional support for our (sic) volunteer troops.

“War will exist,” declared John F. Kennedy, “until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today.”

Or, as Albert Einstein sez: “The pioneers of a warless world are the youth that refuse military service.”

Mickey Z. is the creator of a podcast called Post-Woke. You can subscribe here. He is also the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on New York City streets. Spread the word. Read other articles by Mickey.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hp said on May 17th, 2008 at 6:27am #

    “As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields.”
    Leo Tolstoy

  2. evie said on May 17th, 2008 at 8:20am #

    I cry every time I slap a T-bone on the grill.

    PT boat John and shop-till-you drop Jackie made no excuse when they killed foxes on those hunts in New England.

    Good god, the “left” is so desperate they whine about turkey and deer, which by the way fills a lot of freezers with food here in Podunk.

  3. sk said on May 17th, 2008 at 10:24am #

    FYI, a lesson worth learning from a similarly situated army.

  4. Jim Cronin said on May 18th, 2008 at 1:33am #

    As one who worked for a number of years as a psychotherapist for Vietnam vets (I am not one myself but experienced similar violence), I have to say your comments are as unjustifiable as your hiding your identity. You clearly know nothing about combat veterans and their needs, but like many left-intellectuals, are more than willing to provide an opinion. I myself do not hunt, nor do I own weapons, and am a pacifist. I am also against the kind of animal abuse and ecological destruction prevalent in corporate meat production.

    In my perception, however, “militant vegetarianism,” to coin a term, has somehow injected itself into so-called “progressive” politics, taking what is a minor issue, factory meat farming aside, and pushing it self-righteously to the forefront. This elitism, so typical in its various expressions of leftists alienated from the “masses,” in turn risks alienating the very constituencies needed to move progressive politics forward. Even the Buddha permitted his monks to eat meat. And, as Woody Allen said in one of his films, nature is one big smorgasbord.

  5. john a said on May 18th, 2008 at 2:45am #

    As usual Mickey, you’re right on the money.

    I’d just like to see all these macho men who think they’re so hard try to to hack it in the African bush without all their high powered rifles. Give them the same scrawny little bows and arrows that Kalahari Bushmen use day in and day out and send them off to find their dinner where they might bump into something that fancies them for dinner. Then I’d be impressed.

  6. mindlessbuddha said on May 18th, 2008 at 7:43am #

    I agree with you, Jim. And I think attacking this hunting program is quite ridiculous and too far leftist to be beneficial. However, using the Buddha to justify the killing of animals is a gross error. There is only ONE very specific situation in which the eating of meet is allowed; and, conscious killing of any sort is strictly prohibited. If you kill, you are not a monk. There is no question among monks, teachers, or scholars on this matter. There are a few schools of Buddhism which have taken the teaching and altered it to fit their own cultural circumstances, but the original teaching is quite clear – no killing. I, too, am against militant vegetarianism and fascist hippie leftists, but, an argument from the center needs to be well crafted. Also, I think you are reading/analyzing too much into the writer’s want of privacy in not revealing his name. I’ve been the target of online identity theft, and it was a hard lesson. Attack the argument/position, not the individual.

  7. Lydia, CATALYST in MN said on May 18th, 2008 at 9:55am #

    I’m not a vegatarian (though try to be sensible about eating meat). I do’t hate hunters–in fact, hunting might be a lot mroe ethical than buying factory-farmed meat from the grocery store.

    But,people have missed the forest for the trees here. This wasn’t fundamentally about hunting as a sport at all. It was about the idea of wounded soldiers “healing” through DOING SOME MORE KILLING.

    In January 08 the New York Times reported that at least 121 Iraq,
    Afghanistan veterans have committed homicide in the USA, or facing
    charges in crimes involving murder, after returning from combat. The
    Times tells us it also logged 349 homicides involving all active-duty
    military personnel or new veterans in the six years since US military
    invasion commenced in Afghanistan, and later Iraq. That statistic
    represents an 89 % increase over the previous six-year period, according to the N.Y.Times. About three-quarters of these homicides involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, a pattern starts to develop here.

    I suggest people check out VETERANS FOR PEACE who not only have protested war since the first attack on Iraq in 1991 and were the first to oppose the US Army School of the AMericas(teaching torture to soldiers from around the world) but, SUPPORT VETERANS HEALING PROCESS.

    The important point of Micky Z’s article was :” more obvious choice (for sane people, at least) to give wounded humans an opportunity to heal through efforts that involve compassion and caring”.

    This is the most UN-addressed aspect of trying to end war-making: what it takes to train people to kill–and hwo that changes them.

  8. Jim Cronin said on May 19th, 2008 at 1:36am #

    In the sutra To Jivaka, number 55 in the Pali sutra collection the Majjhima Nikaya, the Buddha states,

    “Jivaka, I say there are three instances in which meat should not be eaten: when it is seen, heard, or suspected [that the living being has been slaughtered for the bhikku]. I say that meat should not be eaten in these three instances. I say that there are three instances in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, heard or suspected [that the living being has been slaughtered for the bhikku]. I say that meat may be eaten in these three instances.”

    It would seem from this sutra that the Buddha exhibited a great amount of empathy for animals in not wanting his monks to be the cause of an animal to be slaughtered. On the other hand, there is also acceptance of the reality that humans eat meat, and no condemnation of it. The point is that there is far too much self-righteous moral indignation among vegetarians. It is a big turnoff to most, and therefore interferes with the acceptance of other, far more significant and critical problems progressive politics is trying to move into the larger society.

    There are many good arguments for not causing animals needless suffering, and for reducing the amount of meat that is produced and eaten for both ecological and health reasons. The self-righteousness of many vegetarians, who view their position as a superior moral purity is no different than right-wing Christians claiming homosexuality is evil. It’s a big turnoff to most, and is self-defeating in the political sphere. Reason, not belief and ego, should govern our decisions.

  9. Voltairine said on May 19th, 2008 at 12:52pm #

    I’ve encountered far more “self-righteous moral indignation” among meat-eaters than I have among vegetarians. Those who do not consider the suffering of non-human animals to be a “significant and critical” problem often display an overwhelming need to justify their indifference to that suffering, invariably ridiculing those who abhor any and all violence.

  10. rosemarie jackowski said on May 19th, 2008 at 1:54pm #

    Bravo, Mickey. You call it like it is. I live in hunters’ territory. Seeing all of those guns in the rear windows of pickup trucks is a bit unnerving. I am also a member of Veterans for Peace. Killing is killing. Killing to cure war trauma is like having sex to cure VD.

  11. Dan Coyle said on May 19th, 2008 at 8:49pm #

    Wait, so getting the clap WON’T cancel out my herpes? I am so fucked.

  12. G-Ford said on May 22nd, 2008 at 4:12pm #

    Now I understand why we are so off beat in this Country. Mikey Z is concerned with snipers that “grew up on farms, and both owned their first rifles before they were 10.” Urban Elitism can take many forms but this Author represents it at its worst. I am thankful for citizens who have chosen to practice their 2nd Amendment Rights. Yes, the best marksmen grew up on farms in rural America and we taught by their fathers. Many individuals that fit this profile have chosen NOT to sign up to fight for global empire and the New World Order. Yes, many of these individuals “fondly” remember their hunting experiences and also enjoy growing and harvesting food. These groups are a strong voice for change in this country. As the political establishment tramples our Bill of Rights, those who took the time to learn to shoot straight will be ones on the front lines of the resistance. The revolution will be peaceful, but it will take a well armed militia to be a threat. Come on Mikey Z, drop the tofu and stand up for up the Constitution. I bet if you filled your deer tag this year your family would appreciate having an alternative to the toxic industrialized food system. Also, the worst thing you can do for us in the antiwar movement is blame the troops.

  13. Mickey Z. said on May 22nd, 2008 at 6:14pm #

    Please, stop it…you’re killing me. This country has an anti-war movement? Please stop…I can’t laugh anymore.

  14. Jeremy Storly said on June 2nd, 2008 at 9:40am #

    It strikes me as odd that the very people who are fighting so hard to put an end to the extreme cruelty perpetuated by the majority are labeled “militant” and “fascists”. Those who exercise their power over animals by continuing the cruel and unnecessary torturing and killing of animals for food, sport, clothing, and research are true fascists at the very core. I find I can no longer speak out against direct action; it has perhaps become the appropriate response to the cruelty that many tolerate or even support. Non-violence is impossible without following a compassionate lifestyle. A compassionate lifestyle is impossible without complete pacifism. True pacifism is impossible without realizing that all creatures who are capable of feeling pleasure and pain deserve this same compassion.

  15. Brian Beauchamp said on June 18th, 2008 at 5:57pm #

    I was at this event and, let me tell you, it was not about killing, but about giving respect to those that have sacrificed so much for our country. None of the hunters were bloodthirsty at all. What they were though was a group of people that want the opportunity to do things that the average American can do if they so choose. The traditions that this country was founded upon are not as far-gone and outdated as many of you may believe. Just because you do not see them every day as many still do, do not think that they are not still alive and well. Those that grew up in that sort of environment respect the realities of life and do not ignore them just because they do not like them. Life feeds on life. Short of morphing into some sort of primary producer and replacing hemoglobin with chlorophyll, I do not see any way around that fact. I do respect the fact that the act of actually taking an animal’s life is too much for some you to do; it is a difficult thing to do and see, especially if you do not have or have not had that true connection with the land, nature and more traditional lifestyle. I am a hunter and I know of very few other hunters that do not understand the humility in that act and the respect they have for the animal. Acting as if separating ourselves from the natural equation is the proper way to interact with our environment is setting us up for disaster. We have already removed many pieces of the ecological system here on Earth, why would we want to remove the most influential and necessary of the animal kingdom…ourselves? We just cannot do that. We must think about the best way to conserve life and that, unfortunately for those that cannot handle the thought, involves controlling populations through hunting because one really skewed part of the ecological web can have far-reaching implications. Being an educated biologist, I have to understand the different methods for conservation biology. Hunting is usually the only truly viable way to achieve population control in most situations.

    This, however, WAS a ‘recreational’ hunt for 5 veterans and there was nothing wrong with that. They deserved the opportunity and respect for their service that they received from our community. I, for one, cannot imagine my life without the sacrifices that these men of honor, courage and, most of all, love, have made for us. They fought for freedom, they fought for their country and they fought for your rights to speak out against them if you so choose. During the luncheon on the last day of the hunt, one of the veterans from the Vietnam era spoke about how he could not wear his uniform on the street because of the misplaced hatred for the military at the time. He spoke with tears in his eyes and a shaky voice and thanked everyone for the outpouring of support from our community. He did not take a turkey, nor did he maim or otherwise shoot at a turkey. He was in tears because he felt that he finally received some sense of honor for his time he gave to his country. That was where the healing was, not in killing. I thank God every day that He let me be a part of it. It healed a lot of what was wrong in my heart as well and wiped a lot of slates clean. Please do not make it into something that it was not. These men deserve better. They stood up for you and your country once. Let them stand tall again.