Prince Harry’s “Kill Count Admission” Hits Home and Misses the Point

Prince Harry’s bold confession unveils war’s complexities, but fails to grasp the devastating impact of trauma on veterans

Benjamin Sledge
8 min readJan 19


Alamy | John Stillwell—PA images

The first question asked upon returning home from Afghanistan was, “Did you kill anyone?” The question caught me so off guard that I stuttered for a few moments before replying, “Excuse me?” They changed the subject, and I went about greeting my family. I’d been home a grand total of ten minutes, but the question tormented me and was repeated over the years once people discovered I had fought in Afghanistan and the 2006 Battle of Ramadi. Each time someone asked, I always changed the subject.

The sniper teams I worked with in Ramadi, however, knew their kill count to a tee. They’d keep tally-marks scribbled on faded and peeling walls inside their rooms, but never talked about it. One sniper I often patrolled with even had an alleged 56 confirmed kills. In reality, his number was closer to 65 kills, and along with his spotter, the two racked up over 100 kills in Ramadi alone during their tour of duty and subsequent battles. A fellow sniper from 1st Infantry Division confirmed this data some fifteen years after I returned home from Iraq, and I’m sure many wonder why he doesn’t have a book deal. I suppose that’s because the psychological damage alone was far worse. Taking lives ruined him for over a decade.

Recently, I met with two Ramadi teammates for a quick reunion and brought up the sniper and his absurd spree. We’re honest when with each other and will speak of death, often stepping into the gallows humor that so many first responders use to stay sane. But more often than not, deaths on the battlefield are the invisible wounds we’d rather remain buried. Instead, we toast the fallen and laugh about combat, the battles, or our hijinks. Many of us have suffered under the long years of war on two fronts, whether from the burn pits, backbreaking labor, or the mental wounds tattooed on our brains.

Which brings us to Prince Harry and his “kill count admission.”

In his new memoir, Spare, the Duke recounts his time as an Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan and shares that he killed 25 Taliban combatants. He…



Benjamin Sledge

Multi-award winning author | Combat wounded veteran | Mental health specialist | Former geopolitical intel | Graphic designer |

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