Active duty airman self-immolates in protest

Due to current world affairs, Bushnell felt he was forced to act.
Aaron Bushnell was a 25-year-old senior airman in the United States Air Force. He spent most of his time behind a desk as he was the cyber-defense operations specialist, according to an Air Force spokesperson. With only two months left on his contract with the military, Bushnell was looking for other job opportunities. He specifically had been training in software development. On his LinkedIn, he stated that he was “truly passionate about writing software and can’t wait to help drive innovation in the civilian world.” Bushnell enjoyed helping people; on the weekends he could be found assisting those experiencing homelessness and dreamed of one day eliminating homelessness altogether.
Bushnell grew up in a Christian religious group located in Cape Cod Bay called the Community of Jesus. After he graduated high school in 2016, Bushnell went on a trip to Israel and the Gaza Strip with the Community of Jesus, where they visited important biblical sites.
In an interview with The New York Times, a friend of Bushnell’s when asked about the trip, stated, “I know that trip meant a lot to every single one of us in the group.”
He continued to live in the community until 2019 when he chose to leave and worked in a pawnshop near his hometown for many months. In May of 2020, Bushnell joined the Air Force as an active duty member stationed in San Antonio, Texas. During his time with the Air Force, Bushnell became increasingly frustrated with the US military, especially due to the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Following a trip to Hawaii in 2022, Bushnell became a regular attendee at meetings of the Party of Socialism and Liberation. He made many friends within this organization and helped with projects such as running communication channels for the group and advertising. Bushnell would regularly assist with homelessness relief efforts with the Socialist group, and it was with the same group that Bushnell felt like he had found a home. In a New York Times interview, a member of this group mentioned the drastic change in ideologies that Bushnell experienced. “He said that he kind of went from one extreme — the conservative beliefs that he had grown up around — to the opposite, forming his anarchist, anti-imperialist values.”
On Feb. 25, Bushnell traveled to the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. dressed in his Air Force uniform, where he set up his phone to livestream and placed it on the floor pointed towards the front gate. Bushnell doused himself in a clear liquid, put his camo hat back on his head, and lit himself on fire. As he burned, Bushnell yelled, “Free Palestine” multiple times before collapsing in shock. Secret Service agents managed to put out the fire before emergency services arrived, but Bushnell passed away seven hours later in the hospital.
Two weeks prior, Bushnell spoke with one of his friends from the Socialist Party. In an interview with the Washington Post, this friend said that nothing about the conversation was violent or self-sacrificial. In a text to that same friend on the day of the protest, Bushnell sent, “I hope you’ll understand. I love you, this doesn’t even make sense, but I feel like I’m going to miss you.”
Bushnell had also sent out multiple emails to news outlets on the day of his death. These emails had the subject line “Against Genocide,” provided a link to his livestream and stated, “I ask that you make sure that the footage is preserved and reported on.”
The support that Bushnell has received across the United States has been widespread, with multiple vigils in major metropolitan areas such as New York City.

Post Author: Grant Doolin