Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and "The Things They Carried"

In the first short story “The Things They Carry” Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, of the Alpha Company describes in detail the things the men in his company carry. For example, Lavender (whose name is in fact quite ironic) carries marijuana and tranquilizers to calm himself down. Other men carry other items which fit their physical description. However, this story also pertains to the history of the Vietnam War. All the men also carry the emotional burdens placed upon them by war. Most of the men we extremely young and inexperienced when it came to combat. These man had little experience with death prior to war, and often found it hard to rationalize the senseless killing, or the death of their fellow soldier. Because of these horrifying experiences, many soldiers who fought in Vietnam now suffer from Post Traumatic Stress disorder. PTSD was not discovered until after Vietnam. O'Brien does an excellent job of illustrating the types of situations that would cause men to suffer from this ailment. Furthermore, this texts enlightens the general public (though the stories are semi-fictional) to PTSD.

My Khe: Home like Oasis?

My Khe, Vietnam is is a beach village on the east coast of Vietnam. It has became known by the name China Beach as a place of relaxation for American soldiers during the war in Vietnam. However, the scene O'Brien paints outside of the My Khe village in “Ambush” is not a pleasant, relaxing one at all. In this story, O'Brien apparently throws a grenade at a man who is walking out of the fog. The man is wearing an ammunition belt around his waist. The setting of the story (outside My Khe) is important. It is heart wrenching for the reader to watch O'Brien relive this memory, so close to an area that is known as an oasis for American soldiers. This again relates to many soldiers' experiences arriving home. America should have been a place where soldiers were celebrated and the could finally relax. However, many of the men returning home were not welcomed. Referred to as baby killers and village rapers, the men never can escape the memories of Vietnam that haunt them.

Village Burnings

In “Style” O'Brien and his company observe a Vietnamese girl dancing amongst the wreckage and debris that was once her village. The village has been burned down by American soldiers. Not only has the village been destroyed, but the girl's parents were also burned to death. The most unfortunate part is that village burning occurred during the war. For example, on March 16, 1968 The U.S. Army conducted a mass murder of 347 to 504 unarmed Vietnamese citizens. Most of them were civilians, and some of them were women and children. Furthermore, some of the victims were sexually abused, tortured, beaten, or mutilated after death. Historically, massacres like this show the ugly brutal side of war, and the darkness of human nature. For the narrative, the burned village shows the men of Alpha company that amidst grief and sorrow, there can also be joy.