Bullets, explosions, stress, loneliness, shame, guilt, remorse, depression and fear. The things a soldier bolsters on his shoulders are overwhelming. In the book, The Things They Carried, written by Tim O’Brien, the post-life of a war veteran is focused upon. The novel main themes signify the disregard of soldiers views as O’Brien writes, “Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons”(O’Brien). Engulfed in the shame and the burdens they may have been forced to carry back with. The reintegration of a soldiers life back into society is vital for him. This novel keeps the reader on the edge of both fiction and in the non-fiction world alternatively making it a very intriguing experience for the readers, fogging the plot: increasing anxiety as it progresses.
It exhibits the life of Vietnam war-torn soldier struggling with finding closure with their decisions overlapping with principles and moral-values. Encountered with PTSD, a soldier should share his experience and let others help him. To counter the horrors of the war, the soldier must communicate. It is crucial for a soldiers reintegration into a society that he shares and opens up to his loved ones. Reducing burdens of guilt and remorse: consequently battling PTSD.
Using communication and human interaction as means of healing. Internal healing could be achieved by sharing the guilt and communicating. In accordance with HuffPost Canada, “His words may help future generations remember the devastating effects of war, but they also help him to forget” (Patel). In accordance with the statements, “Only after a suicide attempt in 2009 did Lafontaine begin receiving help for PTSD and other anxiety disorders. He soon found sharing memories with his psychiatric team was not enough, he said, adding he felt it was important to ensure others learned of the sacrifices made by soldiers every day” (Patel). Getting validation and respect elevates a person self-esteem to a whole new level. It could nudge him into thinking he has a potential to live life peacefully. Something he could still excel in beside killing efficiently.
This is exemplified when giftfromwithin.org states the words from a war veteran, “I’d say, point out every tiny achievement/ step forward… We chat about ways I’ve progressed regularly. It helps give me confidence when I feel like I’m drowning” (giftfromwithin.org). Meaning assisting and acknowledging a soldier’s achievements can make a major change and propel him in the right direction.
Talking about their past experiences can pull them out of their headspace; encompassed by guilt and shame. Talking prevents the buildup in one’s headspace. The same as a pressure cooker needs to let out some steam from periodically preventing an uncontrolled output of energy. Communication is the stepping stone towards the soldier’s proper rehab and establishment into the general population.The reintegration in a society of a soldier is vital for his growth and functioning as a human. As David Axe quotes the words of a veteran, “”You either adapt or you’re like Sylvester Stallone in that movie,” Smith says, referring to the depressed Vietnam vet character John Rambo in First Blood”(Smith).
Further analyzing the ongoing problems of soldiers, “He stresses that PTSD — and moreover its symptoms — can take years or decades to develop. PTSD exacerbates the confusion and desperation many vets feel when they try to start over in the civilian world… You’re depressed and on top of that, you’re starting to have bad thoughts about what you did in the war. (Dozier). The significant change in the environment may affect the soldier in different ways.
They may have certain expectations, an honorable welcome or respect: However, a soldier might face rejection or despise from the public adding to their already heavy bag of emotional strain. A soldier with PTSD may may appear to be nothing out of the ordinary from the outside, however on the inside rests the innumerable recollections of the violent scenes of war-weary countries. Fox news states, “When people, however brave or strong, live for protracted periods in a war zone, in which they must bury the natural fear of death, natural pangs of grief and the natural horror of killing, all that buried emotion does not remain underground. It resurfaces like shards of glass and steel, walled off under the skin, until abscesses develop and eventually burst to the surface, shredding any façade of peace.
” (Fox news). A simple knock, a cramped environment or a loud surrounding may set in motion a seizure, giving the notion that deep down is your worst fears and hauntings ready to spring up to the surface of the skin. Battling all of these things simultaneously; at once puts overwhelming stress on the person. Leading to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. Especially the act of isolation by the soldier is the biggest harm of all: as this may provoke him to think back and reanalyze his decisions on the battlefield, ultimately leading to guilt and self-harm.Guilt and remorse are the biggest company a soldier has on the battlefield.
Aeon.co emphasizes this fact that “He wouldn’t come back the same. He thought his war was over, but a few months later, back in the safety of his childhood home surrounded by his adoring family, the dark secrets and all the guilt emerged from his mind – like the Greeks from their hollow wooden horse, unrelenting in their destruction of ancient Troy” (Sites).
Basically pointing towards that soldier faced with moral questions tend to go down towards the path of depression and self-loathing. The frequency of this happening is “So great, in fact, that the total number of US active-duty suicides in 2012 (349) was higher than the number of combat-related deaths (295). If soldiers felt nothing about taking the life of another human being, that would be indicative of sociopathy” (Sites). The essence of Sites argument here is that he believes human beings, the most complex creatures are born with emotions and empathy far more than we can understand. So when it comes to taking a lives man, it is without a doubt that he would hesitate and question his humanity. But what happens when you suppress those feelings and kill fellow humans in the name of your country? An internal fight is broken out in the person’s conscience Imprisoned in their skull are the terror and the remorse that is clawing its way out to the person’s mind. As the war changes the person, experiencing the war from their point of view is brutal.
They all lead to alcohol abuse, anger, relationship problems and in most cases suicides. In a research carried out by thevietnamwar.info, we can deduce that “Although most of the veterans succeeded in making the transition to civilian life, many did not. About 150,000 came home wounded or amputated, while at least 21,000 were permanently disabled and unable to work for the rest of their lives… Many veterans returned home not only with physical pains but also with psychological problems.
They still experienced depression, flashbacks, nightmares, loneliness and inability to get close to others. Those mental problems that many veterans suffered were named as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to a study, almost 700,000 Vietnam veterans returned home with PTSD.” (Valentine).
While it is true that returning soldiers suffered from loneliness and despair, they should be convinced to call a trusted friend or family member to get moral and emotional support. To a civilian, the reintegration into the society may look like a simple process, yet evidence suggests that this is the biggest step in a soldiers life upon returning back from a war. If the soldiers are not tended with sensibility and love, not acknowledged for their sacrifices: they will most likely take a downturn towards crime and other illegal acts to channel out their anger or frustration. Talking to one’s loved ones may bring them comfort.
Discussing with fellow soldiers who may are experiencing the same trauma may give closure that they require to carry out his life. Thus, the proper treatment of war veterans upon returning back to one’s homeland is sharing to heal their wounds. Stained by scarring moments in a person’s timeline alters the victims functioning capability, giving a sense that his life is unmanageable. His memory which has beforehand never experienced something on this magnitude of significance and disturbance that this leads to the creation of vivid pictures. Ergo It is crucial for a soldiers reintegration into a society that he shares and opens up to his loved ones to reduce burdens of guilt and remorse: consequently battling PTSD.
Using communication and human interaction as means of healing. In “The Things They Carried” similarly are shown the tangible and immaterial burdens of a soldier. Bringing them back home and being stuck in decisions they would’ve made differently.
Adding to the unadmitted guilt which will haunt them always.