At Occupy DC, a Veterans Day Discussion with 21-Year-Old Vet

Michael Patterson (right) speaks with Pete at Occupy DC. Photo credit: Darrin Smith

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“‘Terrorists’ and ‘insurgents’ [are] just dehumanizing terms so that you can do your job more efficiently and without any sort of objections to your conscience,” 21-year-old Michael Patterson told TheFightBack in an interview at Occupy DC at McPherson Square this Veterans Day. Patterson, who conducted some 300 interrogations while serving in Iraq as a member of Task Force 714 in late 2008/early 2009, described his experience as “eye-opening.”

“They’re people. They’re Iraqis. They’re Afghans. They have families. They have feelings. They’re just trying to do the same thing we’re trying to do, which is survive and make a better life for their kids,” said Patterson, who’s originally from Anchorage, Alaska, and is now living at Occupy DC.

While at home this past Christmas Day, just as he was about to buy his ticket to return back to base so he could be deployed to Afghanistan with his unit, Patterson said, “something just clicked in my head.” “I’m not going to settle,” he told himself. “I’m doing my job, but my job is wrong.”

While Patterson has left the battlefield, like so many veterans, it hasn’t left him. “You never forget [what you did] and it never really leaves,” he said. “Being a veteran is a lifelong sentence: [There are] good days and bad days. Some days you’re fine, it’s okay; but there’s always those one or two days out of the month, or out of the week, you’re just like, ‘I can’t deal,’” said Patterson, who recently joined Iraq Veterans Against the War.

As Patterson copes with PTSD from one occupation, he’s playing an instrumental part in another as a member of Occupy DC’s action committee. “I think this is the beginning of the end of the quo,” he said. “The way we think is changing, and I think it’s for the better.”

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