Alicia Ferraiuolo

Contributing Writer


Whatever wounds of war veterans carry within themselves, the sight of an 8-ton military tank rumbling down Keene’s Main Street is giving some people pause.

“Putting an armored vehicle near someone who just returned would be traumatic,” said Will Hopkins, an Iraq War Veteran and founder of the New Hampshire Peace Organization.

Hopkins was never behind the wheel of a Bearcat, but said he is familiar with the vehicle. “I drove an up armored Humvee and am familiar with the use and operations,” said Hopkins “A wheeled armored vehicle is for violence, not protective services.”

The Specialized Mission CBRNE/WMD Rescue Vehicle, or the “Lenco Bearcat SWAT Vehicle,” could become a local sight if city officials accept a $285,993 federal grant for the armored tank. The vehicle was actively used in the Iraq war and would be utilized in the city of Keene and surrounding communities, according to a Feb. 9 Keene City Council hearing.

Some citizens see this vehicle as a way to militarize the police, not protect the public.

“There is no need to militarize the police—it’s protect and serve, it’s (the Bearcat) is not going to protect and serve, it’s going to help aggress,” said Hopkins. “The primary use is to instill fear.”

According to the Grant Application obtained from the Keene Sentinel website, the vehicle would be able to assist in potential terrorist threats caused by the city hosting “several large public functions” like the Pumpkin Festival, the Clarence DeMar Marathon and qualifying races for the US Olympic Time trials.

“It’s a show of force—we don’t need that as a society right now,” said Hopkins.

Veterans living in Keene make up 9-percent of the population, according to the 2010 Census data. For those who are former or active military, a vehicle of such an enormous size and presence could cause emotional trauma, according to Dottie Morris, Chief Officer of Diversity and Multiculturalism at Keene State College.

“I don’t know for certain, but certain things can work as a trigger,” said Morris, adding “The sight of that (the Bearcat), especially with unsuspected notice, it could perpetuate a type of trigger, response or anxiety.”

For Iraq Veterans who spent significant amounts of time surrounded by these vehicles, or for Veterans who simply used tanks during military action, the sight of the vehicle could potentially trigger an episode or flashback.

“Folks who are just returning can experience acute combat trauma, in the first six months, it’s expected,” said Hopkins.

A Vietnam Veteran from Keene agrees.

“It is quite possible for PTSD, not probable,” said Joe Trudell, a lifelong Keene resident who actively served in 22 countries during wartime where he saw “cops carrying machine guns—it’s not a good thing.” Trudell said he and many others fear that the purchase and use of this vehicle will militarize the police and give the citizens a feeling of a “militarized state.”

At VFW Post #799, Trudell and many of the members are on “the same page” on the issue of the Bearcat—claiming the vehicle to be more of public nuisance than an emergency response vehicle.

“Almost everyone I talk to think it’s ridiculous,” said Trudell, “Nothing about it makes sense—it’s a toy. The Police Department and the Fire Department need to have this new toy.”

The utilization of an enormous vehicle seems pointless to the vets. “It’s not necessary—it’s too big and of an expense for a small community like this,” said Trudell. “It would take too much money for the community. I would not pay taxes on it.”

For Hopkins, who is the director of the New Hampshire Peace Organization which, according to the website, has the goal of a world committed to disarmament and peace, nonviolent conflict resolution, and respect for the rights and inherent worth of all people, the vehicle is not appropriate for a community like Keene.

“I don’t think an armored vehicle has any significant humanitarian value,” said Hopkins.



Alicia Ferraiuolo can be contacted at




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