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Luke Taicher

English 101
Mr. Padget
11/3/15
The Troubled
The sixties can be described by rebellion, peace, civil rights, war, drugs and
rock and roll, and a counterculture that swept the country. The attitude of the late
sixties toward war was hostile and angry. The Vietnam War was unlike any other war
in American history. The war was a long drawn out battle of capitalism vs.
communism. The war began in 1954 but not until the mid to late sixties was the war
at its height. The war came to a conclusion in 1975 when the Vietcong seized
Saigon. This was the first war where the mass media covered the war and exposed
the horrors of it. The American people struggled to find meaning in whether what
they were fighting for was worth it. The soldiers were treated with no respect after
risking their lives overseas and were shun from society and protested against. One
vet speaks about his homecoming, We were treated like outcasts, blamed for a war
we didnt start, accused of killing innocent women and children, called dope heads,
spit at and ridiculed by citizens most of the way to Michigan, (Homecoming for
Vietnam Veterans). The soldiers in todays society returning from Afghanistan or the
Middle East are greeted with Thank you for your service, and welcomed into the
arms of America. Soldiers experienced a great deal of horrors over in Vietnam and
coming home to be further exposed to disapproval and horrors rather than coming
home to welcoming arms and gratuity made it that much harder for those soldiers.
The Vietnam War is known as one of the most grueling and horrifying wars because

of the terrain, the ability of the opposition to fight relentlessly, the attitude of the
home front, and the mass media covering the war. The text helps us better
understand the historical and cultural time period by speaking of the lifestyle of the
soldiers, their struggles with coping, and their adjustment of life back home.
The life of a soldier has always been a somber, violent, and tragic life no
matter where one is from. For America it dates back to the Revolution and
unshackling of oppression from the British where the American militia fought
through the cold winters with little medicine, weaponry, and supplies, the Civil War
where family and brothers from different sides of the country fought for their cause,
to the first World War where soldiers suffered the rapid bullets of the machine gun,
to the second World War where soldiers crushed the aggression of fascism and
world dominance and risked their lives on the beaches of Normandy where death
was almost a guarantee, to the Vietnam War to stop communism, to the Middle East
to protect the innocent from weapons of mass destruction and purely evil terrorist
groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The things soldiers see haunt them for years after
and often trouble them for the rest of their lives. The text supports the claim to life
as a soldier excellently. The soldiers in Vietnam were often drafted and did not know
or necessarily agree with what they were fighting for. Throughout the text Tim
OBrien speaks of what the soldiers went through, took with them, and witnessed.
He speaks a great deal of what the soldiers carried on a normal basis. He speaks of
what the officers and each rank had on them, As first lieutenant and platoon
leader, Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books, binoculars, and a .45caliber pistol that weighed 2.9 pounds fully loaded. He carried a strobe light and the
responsibility for the lives of his men. As an RTO, Mitchell Sanders carried the PRC
radio, a killer, 26 pounds with its battery, (OBrien 305). Soldiers would lug through

dense woods with heavy equipment as OBrien described, not knowing where their
enemy was an often times attacked from all sides of the forest. The life of war was
fast and unstable, one moment you could joking around with a friend, to that friend
being struck with a bullet and lifeless. OBrien describes an experience where a
soldier was shot out of nowhere, a soldier was examining a tunnel, Lee Strunk
made a funny ghost sound, a kind of moaning, , right then Ted Lavender was shot
in the head on his way back from peeing. Oh shit, Rat Kiley said, the guys dead.
The guys dead, he kept saying, which seemed profound-the guys dead. I mean
really, (OBrein 309). This quote really displays how one minute a soldier was full of
life taking a pee, something each one of us do everyday, to lifeless on the ground,
mouth open, teeth broken. That just how life was as a soldier, life was so precious,
soldiers dropped left and right. The Vietnam soldiers were known for their sneaky
guerilla like tactics and were excellent at using their surroundings to benefit them in
a land American soldiers were unfamiliar with. OBrein talks about what the soldiers
carried with them referring to, they carried the land itself-Vietnam, the place, the
soil, The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink
of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried it, (OBrein 310). All of these things the
soldiers carried with them, that became their life, not the life of eating dinner with
their family, not going on a date with their wives or girlfriends, not playing sports,
not living the way we do. Their life consisted of disorder and anarchy, which
represented the Vietnam War abroad and back home in America.
Witnessing death is something that many people cannot cope with let alone
understand. Throughout the course of history and war, soldiers have witnessed
horrors whether that was witnessing the countless beheadings at the hand of the
guillotine during the French Revolution, the helpless Jews in the concentration

camps, or the killing of babies during Vietnam, or seeing children with bombs
strapped to their chest in the Middle East. The Vietnam War was especially hard for
soldiers to cope with because of the mass media coverage and the brutality of both
sides. Soldiers would come home and instead of being welcomed they were
shunned from society and spit on and protested against. Often times the soldiers
were drafted and didnt want to be there or didnt fully understand why they were
there. Soldiers had lucky charms and relics they held dearly to help them cope with
what they saw and what they were doing. Until he was shot Ted Lavender carried 6
or 7 ounces of premium dope, which for him was a necessity. Mitchell Sanders, the
RTO, carried condoms. Norman Bowker carried a diary. Rat Kiely carried comic
books. Kiowa carried an illustrated New Testement, first lieutenant Jimmy Cross
carried letters from a girl named Martha, (OBrien 303, 304). The soldiers carried
these to get them through the horrifying day and in some cases they became
obsessed with these objects. OBrien speaks of how the letters Lieutenant Cross
carried with him distracted his judgement and role as an officer. He felt shame. He
hated himself. He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence
Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a
stone in his stomach for the rest of the war, (OBrien 311). Soldiers had so much
trouble coping with what they saw they became so entangled in a fake world
created by things such as letters and objects that they let them get in the way of
their judgment. Some people could not cope with the demons of war, They spoke
bitterly about guys who had found release by shooting off their own toes or fingers,
(OBrien 314). It is hard to fathom that anyone would ever inflict that much pain on
themselves just to release themselves from a situation. Hearing stories of people
doing something as extreme as that to escape a situation gives a clear idea of how

horrible the Vietnam War was. OBrien speaks of how people would not speak of
what they saw and joke on how they barely escaped the tense moment they just
occurred. This isnt surprising because it helped them get through the horror they
just experienced and helped stray their minds from what they may have just seen.
The Vietnam War will forever be known as a solemn time in American history and
those that experienced it, experienced it with great struggle.
Coming back from war is not an easy thing to do, you go from seeing your
brothers blown to bit, constant havoc and devastation, to a life of ease and status
quo for the most part. Soldiers are welcomed home with pampering arms and
thanked for their service. My uncle served for twenty years in the army, fighting in
Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He spoke of coming home and having problems with
his everyday life. He couldnt drive for six months because of the stress he endured
overseas. He spoke of an incident where his best friend was in an army hummer
ahead of him that was blown up. It is hard to understand and almost impossible to
understand what these people went through. Having to come home and try to leave
those experiences and memories behind is impossible. My uncle says what he saw
still haunts him to this day. The Vietnam War was at a critical point in American
history where the home front did not support the war and demanded for an end.
The soldiers didnt want to be there and when they came home they were never
thanked or welcomed back. They spit at from the moment they walked on American
soil to when they were grocery shopping. A soldier speaks of his experience, When
arriving home, I was dumbfounded, ashamed, and depressed about our treatment
so this is the thanks for putting our lives on the line and for sacrificing what we did
during the past year! I began questioning myself was I right in going to fight in
Vietnam or did I make the wrong decision? I soon discovered that it was better to

not advertise and just keep quiet! (Homecoming for Vietnam Veterans). These
soldiers went through hell to come back to being ripped apart and question whether
what went through and saw was worth it. Troops that have come through in almost
every war were welcomed and appreciated knowing they fought for a good cause.
There are exceptions in todays society with the Westboro Baptist church protesting
soldiers funerals, though those actions are not widespread among almost all
Americans. These soldiers were expelled from a society as a whole, the counter
culture movement that took over the American culture disapproved and treated the
soldiers as second hand citizens. According to a survey by the Veterans
Administration, some 500,000 of the 3 million troops who served in Vietnam
suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and rates of divorce, suicide,
alcoholism and drug addiction were markedly higher among veterans, (Vietnam
War History). The numbers shown in this survey display the troubles the soldiers
had with coming home and dealing with what they experienced. Those numbers are
horrifying, it makes one raise the question what if these soldiers were treated with
respect and compassion among returning home from one of the worst wars in
American history. It makes one question the dark period our nation went through
during this period and wonder what our nation was thinking. Dealing with tragic
events its not an easy thing to do and is something that we need to continue to
work on.
The 1960s was a very important period in our history. It was a time where
the country experienced a great cultural shift and dealt with many foreign
aggressions. Those that went to Vietnam, witnessed the eight dead at Kent State,
and those that protested the government all shared the cultural change and
stability. The Vietnam War was one of the darkest wars our nation has experienced

and Tim OBrien brings the time period to life by portraying a soldiers life, shows the
trouble soldiers went through coping with what they saw, and the difficulty returning
home. The sixties and the Vietnam war will always be a reminder of a dark,
influential, and intense time period in our history.

MLA Citation
A.) "The Homecoming for Vietnam Veterans." Cherries A Vietnam War Novel. N.p., 26 Nov.
2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.
B.) "Vietnam War History." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.