Never Leave A Soldier Behind

Throughout the time I was reading The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, my mind kept wandering to all the various things soldiers, marines, sailors, coast guards, and pilots carry.  I thought about all the personal items given to these soliders by husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, parents, siblings, children, neighbors and even strangers. The American public and military families have sent food, candy, pictures, suffed animals, cds, books, magazines, books, cards, toys, Christmas trees…so many things.  But do these things make up for what the military personnel really carry? Do material possessions mask the emotional changes endured during war? Those fighthing in wars, especially in Iraq carry around a lot more than just their pack, flak jacket, and a picture of a newborn son in their helmet.

The concept of carrying and war paint a much different image in my brain.  When i hear the word carry I think of a soldier flinging a fellow over his shoulder. Wounded in combat and unable to run to safety. I envision a casket being carried by an honor guard, a draped American flag waving in the breeze.  I realize that these encounters with death experienced by military men and women will be carried with them in their heart and mind for the rest of their lives. This idea came to me as I read a caption on a photograph of 6 Reserve Soldiers carried a comrade’s casket. The caption reading, “The flag-draped coffins were carried by troops from a military transport plane as family members watched the ceremony in silence.”

The idea illustrated by the military in a sense is build upon some definition of carrying. You as an American patriot carry the responsibility and urge to defend your country’s freedom. You must teach your family and friends to carry on with out you while you are away. You leave your life as you know it carrying next to nothing, only the bare essentials. You arrive at bootcamp and carry your sore body in a 5 mile hump as you learn the ways of warfare. When those in your training section cannot hack the new life, you help carry them to success. You leave for deployment carrying only a pack and a few memories of home. You also carry doubts about fighting in a war, fear you will not make it home, and pride in the American way of life.

In The Things We Carried, O’Brien often tells his stories over and over again, pounding details into the reader’s mind.  THese stories are experiences stuck in his mind, that in a sense he must carry forever.  Because they are locked in his mind, the more he talks about them, the more he is able to ease the load he bears, and to lay some of the weight of war on the listener. He carries the stories about war and keeps them with him, they will always be engrained in his mind.

In conclusion, Tim O’Brien writes a lot about the things soldiers carried: tangible and intangible. Often times its the tangible things that curb the seriousness and weight of the intangible. To close, I found an interview that was aired on ABC news. A reporter interviewed several soldiers asking them what they had with them. They each gave a description of a personal item they had from home, one soldiers said,

             “I carry me and my girlfriend’s picture in my wallet, and I carry her teddy bear in my left cargo pocket,” a    fellow     young soldier named Deal reveals. He pulls a tiny white bear from his pants pocket, its Velcro hands fastened in bear prayer above the red bow on its head. “It’s going to keep me grounded, let me know what I’m coming home to. What I need to come home to,” he explains. The bear disappears in his cupped hands, dried at the knuckles by the desert. A year before the last Gulf War, Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien published The Things They Carried. The book’s title refers not to the things a soldier has to carry, but to the one or two precious items he chooses to bring along as he goes to war. Some things about going into combat never change.”

The soldiers carry personal things, and also carry images and feelings they will never forget.

Soldiers’ Possessions Click here

Soldiers carry comrade


5 Responses to “Never Leave A Soldier Behind”

  1. 1 darkshores
    April 14, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    In The Things They Carried, the things they carried was something I thought about through the entire book. In the beginning, we get a feel of what a soldier carries around with him. Yes, there are the staples that are carried such as guns, ammo, grenades, radio, food, medical supplies, etc… but there are also those emotional as well as psychological things that are carried as well. Emotionally, it is human to carry the loss of a comrade or any person that was close to you. There is the emotion of killing another person; however that to can go psychologically deep in a person as well. Was the shot justified? What was this person’s life like? Did he have a family?

    After thinking of all these things, I highly doubt that I could ever be in any type of situation that makes me think of this stuff. I can barely fire a gun, I get nauseated at the sight of gore, the though of shooting a person even if they are endangering my life and that of others is still a hard concept to mull over.

    The last thing I though about is what I would end up carrying with me if I was in the situation. Like everyone else, I would probably carry a wallet full of pictures of people who are close to me and quite a few packs of cigarettes.

  2. 2 meg3212
    April 14, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    The things that soldiers carry is a concept that I never actually sat down and thought about. Before reading O’Brian’s story on it, I probably would have just simply thought about the cargo, ammunition, weapons,etc. The typical things that soldiers need in a war. I never really thought about the emotional side of things. Of course, now it seems so obvious that a soldier in a war would carry fear, sadness, anxiety, guilt, or lonely feelings for family or loved ones. It often seemed like the emotional aspect was harder to carry than the actual items. All of these thinga that they carried throughout the war will continue to be carried with them after the war. They might carry more guilt, sadness, disconnected feelings, confused, etc. The personal items that the soldiers carried was also interesting because to anyone else, it would have no meaning, but to that soldier, it meant the world to them and it might have even gotten them through very difficult days. For example, int he novel, one of the men carried his girlfriend’s pantyhose, and one carried m&m’s.

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