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[Watch] Aaron Bushnell Video, Aaron Bushnell Video Original Twitter

MoviesCoolFebruary 28, 2024

Aaron Bushnell Video: The Airman who set himself on fire and rose in the religious courtyard was a disgruntled past.

Aaron Bushnell Video, Aaron Bushnell Video Original Twitter

Less than two weeks before Aaron Bushnell walked toward the gate of the Israeli embassy, he had spoken on the phone with a friend about their shared identity as disgruntled, and what risks and sacrifices were necessary to be effective.

Bushnell, 25, did not mention anything violent or self-sacrificial, his friend said.

Then, on Sunday, Bushnell texted the friend, describing the exchange as a condition to not disclose his name for his protection.

“I hope you understand. I love you,” Bushnell wrote in a message reviewed by The Washington Post. “It doesn’t mean anything, but I feel I’m going to miss you.”

On Sunday, he sent the friend a copy of his will. Inside, he had left his neighbor his cat and his friend a fridge full of root beer.

Twelve minutes later, Bushnell, a senior airman in the US Air Force, doused himself with a liquid and set himself on fire. He had posted a video online saying he did not want to be associated with “massacre.” As he burned, he yelled “Free Palestine.”

Secret service agents extinguished the fire. Bushnell died at the hospital seven hours later.

His suicide immediately garnered praise from some anti-war and Palestinian activists, while others said they were shocked that he would take such an extreme step. But how a Lord of the Rings-loving karaoke enthusiast became an incendiary figure in a military uniform has left some of his closest friends puzzled too.

Bushnell was a chaplain’s assistant, rising from the ranks, like Susan Wilkins, 59, who described herself as a member of the group from 1970 to 2005. She said she knew Bushnell and his family in this compound. And when she left, she was still a member. Wilkins said she heard through family members of Bushnell that he had left the group altogether.

Wilkins’ account contradicts several others who said they had heard from Bushnell’s family members about his childhood connection to the group or about his relationship with his family members.

The community, known as Jesus’ Community, has faced scrutiny over inappropriate conduct, which it has publicly disputed. In a case against an Ontario school, where many employees alleged that American-based religious group members accused them of being members of a religious group, former students have described the Jesus’ Community as a “charismatic community” and accused it of creating “a culture of control, fear, and humiliation. That has damaged students and caused lasting harm.” The school, now defunct, has denied the allegations. Last year, a Canadian appeals court awarded former students $10.8 million Canadian dollars who attended Ontario schools between 1973 and 1997.

A receptionist who answered the phone at Jesus’ Community declined to call anyone on behalf of the authorities. They did not respond to group emails.

Several people who said they were former members of Jesus’ Community described their years after leaving the group as particularly challenging. They said former members, soon after leaving the group, often longed to be together for the sense of solidarity.

“Many of us have a lot more social justice awareness than ourselves, who cannot protect ourselves or cannot protect them, tried to protect them because we had gone through it,” said Bonnie Jampono, 54, who was a member of the group for three years in the 1980s.

Wilkins also said that joining the armed forces in Jesus’ Community was common, describing the transition as a move from “a high-control group to another high-control group.”

The Air Force said in a statement Monday night that Bushnell’s death was under investigation by military authorities, following the death of a service member. He was a cyber defense operations specialist with the 531st Intelligence Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and had been in the Air Force since May 2020, the service said.

Luke Barboza, 32, said he met Bushnell in 2022 at an event for a socialist organization in San Antonio. They bonded over their shared politics and started working together to provide clothing and food to the homeless.

“He was angry, and he knew that no one in authority was going to listen to the protesters every week,” Barboza said. “He knew that as a white person and as a member of the armed forces, he had a particular privilege.

San Antonio’s other friends have said that they have divided opinions about Bushnell’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Gaza War for American intervention, but they haven’t indicated any hints about what will happen in Washington on Sunday.

They also said that earlier this year, he went to Ohio to a course for transferred service members from the military. One of his friends, Levi Pierpoint, 23, had met him for lunch in January in Ohio. Over plates of butter chicken, they talked about their involvement in the military and what they wanted to do after leaving the service. Pierpoint said they both were excited about joining the military in May 2020 when they were still in basic training and eager to see how it could help them gain more experience in the world.

Pierpoint said he became disillusioned with the military over time – he was concerned about the ambiguity surrounding violence within the military and felt unsettled – and felt he had gone as a conscientious objector. (The Air Force did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his account.) In 2024, Bushnell had become more vocal about his objections to the military, Pierpoint said. After the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May 2020, Bushnell had told Pierpoint he had begun researching the history of the United States and wanted to take a stand against all state-sanctioned violence.

Bushnell had been considering leaving the military, Pierpoint said, but he had decided he was too close to finishing his required service. Bushnell had told Pierpoint over lunch in January that he had plans to find a job that would earn him enough money to support himself while being politically active. Pierpoint said he had encouraged his friend to go to college and get a degree in something he was passionate about.

Rarely suicidal but associated with an anti-war protest, perhaps the most famous Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, who immolated himself in Saigon during the Vietnam War. In 1965, an American protester committed suicide at the Pentagon.

During the Iraq War, a war protester committed suicide near the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. In 2010, a Tunisian street vendor committed suicide, triggering a wave of unrest that worked as a catalyst for the Arab Spring, where countless leaders were forced into rebellion. In December, a woman committed suicide outside an Israeli consulate in Atlanta. She had a Palestinian flag with her at the time, authorities said.

U.S. military personnel have been barred from participating in political activities under long-standing Pentagon policy. While no one in uniform joined Bushnell in openly opposing the Gaza war, some service members have misconceptions about it and frustration remains that criticism of the Israeli military’s actions has been blamed on American military support.

Since the start of the Israel-Gaza conflict in October, at least 29,782 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel estimates that nearly 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’ October 7 attack and says that 240 soldiers have been killed in Gaza since its military campaign began. During the attack, Hamas and its allied fighters kidnapped more than 250 people. During the ceasefire in November, more than 200 Palestinian prisoners were released in exchange for more than 100 Palestinians in Israeli jails. The Israeli side believes that more than 100 people remain in Gaza.

On Monday afternoon, nearly 80 protesters gathered at the Israeli Embassy to support Bushnell and to express Israeli condemnation of the war. Among them was Sam Osta, 55, who had met Bushnell at a protest in Lincoln Memorial in 2022. “I would have if I could have. I would have stopped him,” said Osta, who played an audio recording of Bushnell burning himself. “His life meant so much, and what happened was terrible.”

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Bushnell’s friends, including Barbosa, said they saw him at a party in San Antonio for the last time in January. It was a karaoke bar. He belted out song after song, many from “Les Miserables,” which he loved. And one was Mandy Moore’s “Wind in My Hair” from the movie “Tangled” based on the TV series.

“I had a smile on my face,” Bushnell sang, “And I was walking in the air.”

Contributions to this report were made by Peter Jameson, Omarion Daniels, Eli Silverman, Hannah Alam, and Rajan Nakhlawi.