Day 24- The Things I Will Never Carry

I finished Tim O’Brien’s, “The Things They Carried,” today. 

I am hit with a sort of solemness and urgency. I want to hold the book to my breast and keep it with me. I want to buy the book and not rent it from a library. I want to carry this book on my person, and feel the ghost of it in my heart. 

I have the urgency to join a war. To see death. To be alive for however long the experience or my life lasts. I just don’t know though.

There are things I will never understand about war and being a soldier. Sometimes this book makes me feel things that I probably shouldn’t. It’s all romanticized. I don’t want to kill anyone. I just want to look at death. I want to look at death and feel the giddiness of being alive.


For the author as well as for me, it is very strange to bridge that gap between Vietnam and real life. Here I am, this 23-year-old kid still sleeping in late, with half a college degree and pretty pink lantern in her room. I don’t know anything. Still I am haunted by the mists and valleys of a land and a war I’ve never had.
This book was written in 1990, twenty so years after the war. I had just been born. It’s been forty odd years now since these experiences, true or not, have happened. I wonder if there will ever be peace from the shadow of it. 

Maybe it’s just because I have so recently encountered this book; maybe because I’m so inextricably drawn to war, I just can’t help but see the shadows of Vietnam in Iraq and Afghanistan; the homeless man where the bridge overpasses the highway; and the bumper sticker for the driver who says he’s not pro-war, but still declares, “I SUPPORT THE TROOPS.” 

I am afraid because I feel grief that I will never experience Vietnam as it was. Ted Lavender shot in the head, mellow with tranquilizers; Curt Lemon swallowed by the sunlight and soaring into the trees; and Kiowa sinking into the shit field, I am afraid because I want that. Who would want that? I will never know; I will never understand; I will never carry the things they carried. 

Maybe just this book. 


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Amy Schulz says:

    Bree… That was incredible what you just wrote. My stepdad fought over there, and he was one of the rare few who seemed to deal with every day life just fine, after he got back. He didn’t talk about ‘Nam much. I remember asking him once, if he could tell me something about it/what it was like. He said I was too young, and that once I got older, he would tell me. He never got that opportunity, because of the brain tumor he developed from the agent orange. About two years ago, I visited his mother, Evelyn. She had compiled all of the pictures and awards he had, from Vietnam, in photo albums.
    You should read “Owen Meany.” One of its themes is how the protagonist reacts the Vietnam/getting drafted.

    1. Breeness says:

      Owen Meany is on the list. I have a couple other books that I have I am reading before it, but I am definitely looking forward to it. Vietnam is really becoming a fascination for me. I wish I could have met your stepdad. Even O’Brien talks about his smugness when he first came home from the war. He talks about being able to transition easily where a lot of his comrades could not cope (one even hangs himself). It would be interesting to talk to veterans on both sides of the spectrum.

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