In A Grunt’s Lifea series that put VET Tv on the map for the Veteran community, there is a profound scene in episode three where Greg Kelly expresses his regard for the lives of the Afghan citizens that are being lost on a daily basis during conflict.
Let’s just say, his perspective was not exactly well-received with the buddy he chose to confide in. The battle buddy immediately separates himself from the humanity side of war and refuses to acknowledge that their behavior is barbaric and that these individuals are "less than human" - sub-human is the actual term that he uses.
“Yeah, no, you’re right. But still, a part of me wants to be a little more civilized than that.”
It’s a profound statement, and it showcases the internal struggle that military service members experience every day. When your job is literally to kill the enemy, how do you possibly survive withoutdehumanizing them? If every soldier allowed every death they witnessed to affect them, there would be almost no comprehensible way they could survive a combat deployment.
So, What Happens Next?
Lance Corporal Cox is struggling to adapt to dehumanization, and you watch those feelings be continuously shot down, ignored, and invalidated by his fellow Marines. So what is naturally going to happen? He starts to become conditioned to it. He starts to accept dehumanizing the enemy as a part of his job, as a part of the mission. And that process repeats itself in every conflict, on every deployment, in every company, and in every battalion.
And the comes the day where Lance Corporal Cox is going to separate from the military and he’s going to find himself adapting to civilian life where the act of dehumanizing others is frowned upon. But when you’ve had to use it as a survival tactic to keep yourself moving forward, there’s no such thing as just turning that off, is there?
Moving Forward on a Difficult Path
It’s a long road to make an adjustment of this magnitude, but know that you are not the only one to walk it. Rebuilding your respect and value for human life can be one of the biggest steps to acclimating to a healthy and functioning lifestyle outside military walls.
In one of our breakdowns of an episode of A Grunt’s Life, featured here on the blog, we talked to Lauren Rich, Licensed Clinical Therapist, about the effects dehumanization has on Veterans, and how they can start to overcome it.