The Whittier College Student Veterans Organization (WCSVO) screened an episode of the HBO series Generation Kill in Club 88 on Feb. 28 to help encourage Whittier College students to engage in discussions about the complexities of veteran life. “There was a series of surveys that we took based from the [Department of Veteran Affairs] studies that showed that, while 98 percent of the country may believe that they support the troops, only 45 percent of them actually understood what the term troops mean,” said second-year President of the WCSVO and United States Marine Corps veteran Joshua Elsen. The WCSVO wants to address and challenge public perception of veterans. “A lot of the people do not know who we are, and when we meet these people, their first impression [is] a list of things,” he said. “We are just average people; we are just trying to navigate our way through life and be a student. We understand that we are veterans and we walked a different life than your average 18-year-old.”
Generation Kill is based on a book by Evan Wright; the book and the series follow the first Marine reconnaissance battalion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The WCSVO used the screening to expose a different view of the lives of active Marines. The series is regarded by the Whittier College veterans and critics as a realistic depiction of the war experience. The episode that the Veterans club showed some insight into Marine culture, depicted acts of camaraderie, and showed Marines looking out for each other when things go wrong. The episode was a bit slow; it acted as an introduction to the main characters and set up how life functions in an active military camp. The most action shown was a scene of a stand-off between U.S. and Iraqi forces where no bullets were actually exchanged.
After the episode ended, the WCSVO hosted a group discussion to answer questions and share their thoughts. “This series is meant to open up dialogue to get a sense of what it means when we say veterans,” said Elsen. “Let’s discuss these stereotypes and break them down with us as your resource to explain what it is like.” The discussion included questions about certain parts of the episode and some personal experiences from the members of the WCSVO.
The WSVCO encouraged that the discussion be a safe space and avoid overtly political conversation. This is to encourage talks more centralized on veteran topics rather than politically-driven ones. “We want to be a resource for this school. We want to help out and community build. That is why we served. We want to create a better reality for ourselves and for the people,” said Joshua Elsen.