Monday, August 6, 2012

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried  by Tim O'Brien, I found this book by accident. While teaching summer school a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the 11th gr. American Lit. teacher was using this book in his class.  I found a copy of the book tucked away on a shelf in the store room. I really wasn't certain what this book was about because the teacher was giving back ground information to the students. Then I realized the students in this class really have no idea about Vietnam. Even I really had no knowledge of the 'conflict'. I was just a junior high school student in 1968 and when I was in high school history class I can barely remember the class let alone know if Vietnam was even mentioned. How sad! Is it taught today in some capacity, I don't know. When I think of Iraq and Afghanistan will these 'conflicts' or wars be mentioned in our history books? Will students know of them? I feel we can't learn from the past if we don't teach about the past. I have had students in class who don't even know about 9/11. These students were barely a twinkle in their parents eyes. These 'conflicts' need to be opened for discussion. 
Anyway back to the book The Things They Carried , I am glad I found this book.  At first I thought is was a group of short stories about each of the members of this platoon or company. You can see I am not knowledgable on military ways. This book is about the items they carried with them from home, keepsakes from family, pictures, all kinds of items some were even good luck charms. The Vietnam conflict wasn't  discussed when I was in school. I do remember sending care packages to my cousin Joey, I remember sending socks, kool-aide, and all kinds of things. I still have the pictures he sent back of himself with bullet belts(?) crisscrossed over his chest. I know he came home safe and sound but after that I don't know what his future held for him.  In this book it brought to life the Vietnam Conflict. It back memories of the news programs with body counts and draft card numbers being listed with Walter Conkrite. I remember the protest marches being shown on TV and the Kent State issue. I remember the massacre of a village and soldiers being tried for killing the villagers. I am not certain of the names.
There are times when tears just came as I read the book from being frightened as the soliders were, because a friend was killed, because a letter had to be sent home telling parents how brave and soldier like their son was or just because I needed to relive the tension from reading about the guys in the book. As back in the 1960's and today young guys are being sent to a place knowing they maybe the guy that isn't coming home safe and sound.  Knowing the guys they are fighting aginst aren't using the same international rules of war. Oh. God I can't imagine being so scared, not getting a good day or nights rest.  But I am proud of guys who did and do go to fight to defend our democratic ways.

If you were just a young child through the 60's and 70's, pick up a copy of The Things They Carried, it might help make sense of the Vietnam Conflict or was it a war? Whats the difference!  It brings to life what  day to day was like for these soldiers.  Possibly the next time you see a soldier you will say 'THANK YOU', I do.

I was going to donate this copy to the local public library, but I decided not to and on my next trip in to Washington,D C, I live less then an hour away.  I will leave it by the Vietnam Wall. It is a book for many others to read.