Memorial Day is a special yet solemn moment for our cherished United States. It is a day of mourning and a day of celebration. We mourn the nearly 1.2 million Americans who have lost their lives on the field of battle. We celebrate their sacrifices, their victories, and the legacies they have left behind.
For this post, PatrioticMe would like to do something a little different. We would like to talk about a book: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.
Tim O’Brien, a Minnesota native, is a veteran of the Vietnam War. In 1990, he released a collection of short stories which came to be titled as The Things They Carried, a reference to the burdensome weight of military equipment and the weight of war and what it does to a soldier. The story is a blur between fiction and reality. O’Brien is a character in the story, a soldier trapsing through Vietnam as he once did, yet the events and the characters around him are fictional, however inspired by O’Brien’s true experience. The result is the terrifying yet entrancing tale of “Alpha Company,” and each and every chapter is a tough read as O’Brien recounts the loss of his fictional friends, and the often sudden and horrific ways in which they were killed.
The reason we wanted to discuss this story is because it relays the reality of what it means to be KIA, something that goes far beyond the service of country. Here is an excerpt from The Things They Carried:
“Together we understood what terror was: you're not human anymore. You're a shadow. You slip out of your own skin, like molting, shedding your own history and your own future, leaving behind everything you ever were or wanted to believe in. You know you're about to die. And it's not a movie and you aren't a hero and all you can do is whimper and wait.”
- Tim O’Brien
This passage spoke to our family. We had always celebrated the bravery of men and women who decided to wear the American flag on their sleeve and fight for the betterment of the globe. We honored their sacrifices each year through prayer, thanking those who had passed on. Yet this book allowed us to realize the true sadness behind those prayers.
War changes people. It forces people to defy their kind, communal nature. In the pages of The Things They Carried, O’Brien displays a psychological torture you would never wish to believe. Some men and women are lucky enough to come home to the States, see their family and friends, and can be treated for the pain they endured, either physical or mental. But others, whom we remember on this Memorial Day, are not so lucky, spending their last moments in that state of fear and hopelessness. It is when we recognize this truth that we can fully appreciate their sacrifices, for they deserve it more than anything. As such, we believe The Things They Carried is an important book for any Patriot. Yet be warned; it is not for the faint of heart.
Lastly, PatrioticMe would like to remind our supporters that a small portion of every patriotic t-shirt sale supports the Tunnel 2 Towers Foundation, a foundation that assists the families of fallen and injured soldiers and first responders. These donations make our work here at PatrioticMe more than worthwhile, and we hope you will help us keep fulfilling this important duty.