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Aaron Bushnell Protest Part of ‘Hidden History’ of Anti-War Veterans

CC BY 3.0 / Jonathan McIntosh / Iraq Veterans Against the War marching in Boston at the New England Anti-war Mobilization.
Iraq Veterans Against the War marching in Boston at the New England Anti-war Mobilization. - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.03.2024
Last week, US Air Force active duty member Aaron Bushnell self-immolated in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington D.C. to protest what he called Israel’s genocide in Gaza.
“I will no longer be complicit in genocide. I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest, but compared to what people in Palestine have been experiencing at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all,” Bushnell explained during a live stream moments before his act of extreme protest.
Bushnell died from his injuries but his video would be shared across the internet, intensifying the debate surrounding the war in Gaza and the United States’ role in funding it.
Garett Reppenhagen, a former US Army sniper and peace activist, told Sputnik’s Political Misfits on Thursday that there has always been “an awareness of veterans coming out of military engagement and seeing things differently,” pointing to Vietnam and Iraq War veterans who have protested against the conflicts they participated in.
“You certainly don’t usually think the same things going in as you do coming out, and yeah, I think it’s [a part of] a hidden history of veterans and military service members protesting."
On Wednesday, several US military veterans burned their uniforms at a vigil held for Bushnell in Portland, Oregon.
While most veterans don’t speak out, Reppenhagen said “That's because most of us come home from war and we're trying to go to school and get a job and start a career and start a family and just unscrew ourselves, you know, mentally from the experience that we had.” However, the ones who do protest “are very vocal and they’re kicking and screaming to be heard” but are often ignored by the media that prefers the “credibility” that comes from interviewing the top brass who “very rarely… understand what’s going on in the soldiers’ experience.”
“Aaron Bushnell was being gaslit before anybody even knew his name because service members who protest are [considered] malcontents,” Reppenhagen explained, “They are mentally unfit for duty, there's some other issue with them, and that's what's going to be said about Aaron, unfortunately.”
The change in soldiers shouldn’t be attributed solely to PTSD, but also a “moral injury” that co-host Michelle Witte suggested there is “nothing in place” to help veterans grapple with their struggles.
US Secret Service vehicles block access to a street leading to the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC on February 25, 2024. A man reportedly set  himself on fire near the embassy on Sunday afternoon.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.02.2024
US Airman Dies After Setting Himself Ablaze Outside Israeli Embassy in Washington
Reppenhagen agreed. “It’s been hidden there all along, if you look all the way back to the Civil War, PTSD was called ‘soldiers’ heart,’ that doesn’t sound like just someone who’s experienced trauma,” he explained.

“We’re told about these myths that we’re defending out neighbors in our communities and that we’re fighting for democracy and freeing people. But we see Exxon and Halliburton and Lockheed Martin getting rich and all of our families and friends suffering,” Reppenhagen added that Bushnell’s message was very simple. “This is morally wrong and I don’t want to be a part of it, and I’m ashamed being part of it, and we need to wake up.”
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