I made this mock Army Advert shown above recently after seeing Darren Cullen’s (SpellingMistakesCostLives) reinvention of the latest “this is belonging” Army advertising slogan to “this is belonging, to the state” (see bottom of page).
I showed a friend my “This Is Killing” version and asked what he thought and should I share it. He said “Think that might be appealing? At 18 I would have thought, yeah!”. And I agreed. When I was far younger than 18 this would have seemed appealing to me. “To kill the enemy” was heroic and what you hear about in the big hollywood films right?
But surely if the younger generation think killing is cool we have failed as a society?
On a cold November day in 2006 I made the long journey to the Infantry training centre in Catterick. I made this journey on my own after years of obsessive focus directed towards arriving at this moment.
But what was I here for?
For the rush, for the challenge, for the action, to help, to protect, to serve are just a few of the phrases used on the Army’s TV adverts and I wanted a bit of all of it. I had seen the adverts, read the recruitment material and watched the DVD’s they had given me at the recruitment centre over and over again. I had read every SAS book I could buy in Waterstones and watched every TV show and film available. What I saw in all of this was more powerful than anything else I had ever seen. I was 17 and wanting to prove my “manhood”, my worth and wanted to feel proud.
Like many others that turned up on the doorstep of the Infantry training centre that day I had failed at school. I was never going to make the high rungs of the corporate ladder, and I didn’t want to either. I had something even more elusive in my sights. To fight in a war for my country.
When I entered training I wanted to go and fight in a war and kill the enemy. But if push came to shove there and then was I capable of it? could I have pulled the trigger? Who knows.
What I do know is that after just 26 weeks in that training regime there was now no question. All I wanted to do at the end was go to war and kill the enemy. This ethos took over my entire life and was all that mattered to me. Civilian life could take a hike as far as I was concerned.
Is this normal?
I understand that not every kid wants to join the army to be on the front line. The more astute may gain a trade and learn skills. But let’s be clear that no matter what job you do in the army you are aiding in some way for the killing to take place.
Looking back on my life and my though process leading up to and during my army career the one thing that I keep coming back to is the realisation that it wasn’t normal. I had the glorification of war and killing coming at me from every angle. TV, Books, Games and advertising all goading me to join up, fight for your country and be a hero.
Wanting to kill people is not normal or healthy. Following orders without question is not normal. Having your rights taken from you is not normal, but this becomes the norm!
What happens when the killing is over?
So after 7 years in the army, multiple mental and physical conditioning courses, two tours of Afghanistan and a few near death experiences I decided to call it a day. I left assuming I would slip into civilian life. In my mind, I was mentally and physically superior to civilians.
I will tell you the dirty secret of what happens when it is over. PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, Poverty, Alcohol abuse, Isolation, an inability to interact with the people world around you and a complete lack of support from the institution you put your life at risk for. And if you’re really unlucky suicide waits for you.
Yes this is killing… Killing our minds, Killing our imaginations, Killing our rights and Killing our health and the more we allow it to carry on unquestioned the more minds we allow to be damaged.
Wayne Sharrocks is a member of VFP.