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Vietnam Soldiers – “They Carried Ghosts” Essay, Research Paper

Vietnam Soldiers – “They Carried Ghosts”

Essay submitted by Tavia

The relationship between the soldiers of the Vietnam War was different from the

relationships with people from home. The soldiers felt as if they could not tell the whole

truth about the war through their eyes to their loved ones at home. The soldiers that

they were with all the time understood the pain and confusion each other felt, yet no

one talked about it. War changed how people had relationships with others. War could

bring people closer or tear them apart.

The relationships between the soldiers and their families grew or forced them to

become distant. The soldier did not want to worry his parents at home and knew that

they would not understand what he was going through. In the Documentary Dear

America: Letters Home from Vietnam, directed by Bill Couturie, showed these

relationships change. One soldier writes to his mother and tells her that for a second,

he felt as if he was on vacation because it was so beautiful in Vietnam. One had to

think that this man wrote this to his mother only for her to worry less. He did not want

to tell her the whole truth on what was really going on inside of him. Would anyone

from the outside world understand? “P.S. tell mom not to worry, there is nothing I can’t

handle.” The soldiers could handle the physical horrors that were happening to them,

but the mental status of many the soldiers were becoming breakable. How could you

tell someone not to worry about you, when you do not even care what was going to

happen to yourself. The soldiers were all prepared to die, but waiting was what was

driving them crazy. They did not want to tell their 17-year-old girlfriend at home this

because she would never understand. How do you tell someone that you love that you

are loosing your mind and do even know who the enemy is anymore? Downplaying the

whole war situation to your loved one was the only way to keep yourself sane and not

make them worry too much about you. All of the men were scared, yet did not know

how to show it. They could not show it to their families in letters because that could

do nothing but make your mother worry that you were not going to make it. “We all

scared, one can see this emotion in each individual, some hide it with their mouth and

others hide it with their actions. There is no way around it. We all scared.” The soldiers

of the Vietnam War were terrified only because they did not want to die. Humans are

not born killers, and do not know how to play the role of one. The soldiers tried to play

this role as best as they could, but some failed. The families and loved ones of the men

of the war did not know the role playing was taken place because the soldiers did not

want to share it with them. What could someone at home do make them less

frightened? The soldiers did not want people at home worrying about them. “Don’t

worry about me, it wont do anyone could.” Having people who love you worrying about

you all the time only puts more pressure on the soldiers than they already had. The felt

they were forced into a job they did not want to do but must do it anyway. “I’m

scared, not scared enough to quit, I am a marine.” The relationships between the

soldiers and their loved ones changed to do the fact that the experiences of war could

not be demonstrated onto a piece of paper. Their families were not there and did not

experience what the soldiers did. The loved ones of the soldiers grew closer to the

soldiers only out of worry. The soldiers grew closer to their families because they did

not want to die. “Vietnam can kill me, but it can’t make be care.” is the Poster slogan

of the movie Full Metal Jacket, directed by Stanley Kubrick. The men who were send to

train to go to the Vietnam War shared a special relationship between each other that

no one from the outside world could understand. They were all scared, yet did not

know what they were in for. They knew they could die, but that was not a huge worry

for them at that moment. The pain and sadness of going to war was shared with all the

men in this camp. Full Metal Jacket showed how the Vietnam War made different

relationships between the men fighting in it. They all shared different bonds with each

other over different reasons. Some of these marines did not want to show their fear to

anyone because it would make them look weak. Private Joker was someone who was

terrified of war, but did not want to show it to anyone else. Private Pyle represented

the fear and anxiety in all of the soldiers in the war. Private Joker felt the same fear in

Pyle and tried to help Pyle and himself overcome the fear. Joker did not want to admit

that the insecurities Pyle had were feelings he shared. This was why he hesitated and

then hit Pyle five times with the bar of soap and towel, four times more than everyone

else. Pyle was his friend but he did not want to admit he was like Pyle. These men

where trained to be kill the enemy. Pyle killed who he thought was his enemy, himself.

The relationships between Joker and Pyle were the bond of terrifying anxiety.

Joker became a close friend with Cowboy because they both shared fear but did not

show it. Cowboy and Joker were both laid back and afraid. They shared the connection

of not showing your fear, but still having a conscience. They both did not want to be

there and questioned why they were in war. Joker and Cowboy shared a friendship that

was honest and authentic only because the understood what each other was feeling.

They shared a conscience that would not let Vietnam get the best of them.

Staying sane was one of the essential survival tips during the Vietnam War. Rafterman

was close to comparison with Pyle. He was a quiet person, who wanted to be in

combat like everyone else. He was assigned to take the pictures for Joker’s articles.

Joker did not want Rafterman around because Rafterman acted as Jokers

subconscience. Joker did not want to realize that Rafterman was him. Being scared was

a feeling Joker did not want to show. The bond Rafterman and Joker shared was the

feeling of fear. Joker did not comfort him when he was scared only because he did not

know how to comfort himself in the situations of war. Rafterman wanted to be on the

field, but when he was faced with that situation he panicked and did not know how to

handle it. He did not want to kill, nor did Joker. They shared the fear of feeling like a

killer. Not showing human emotions during the Vietnam War was what Animal Lover

symbolized. The Marines wanted to turn all of its men into killers. Animal Lover

represented how playing the role of a killer could turn you into one. He did not listen to

orders and was responsible for Cowboy’s death by bringing him in the sniper’s range.

Animal Lover and Joker did not have a healthy relationship because Animal Lover could

see Joker’s conscience. Animal Lover did not have a conscience. He let Vietnam take all

of his human qualities away from him and turned in him into a monster. Joker did not

want to let that happen to him. Animal Lover and Joker did not get along only because

Joker keep the faith that this dreadful real life nightmare would be over soon and to

make the best of it as much as you can. Animal Lover turned his life into Vietnam. War

turned the soldiers’ emotions into one big roller coaster. They were not sure how they

should feel or how they should react to other soldiers who were going through the

same predicament. In The Things They Carry, by Tim O’Brien, showed the emotions and

fear of these men, who did not know how to handle it. “War is nasty war is fun. War is

thrilling war is drudgery. War makes you a man war makes you dead.” (p.87) The

soldiers were not sure how to feel about being in war. Each man felt this way and felt

each other’s confusion. “They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a

silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.” (p. 9) The soldiers did not

want to admit to each other the pain they were carrying around. They were always

together, yet they all felt alone.

The soldiers were thrown into war and where forced to become close with people they

never knew before. “They carried their own lives.” (p. 15) Each soldier was responsible

for all of the men in their unit, yet they had to worry about themselves first. They grew

to trust and love each other. That was relevant in war. It did not matter who you were

and where you came from they were responsible for each other.

Seeing people that you grew close with die right in front of your eyes felt painful scars

on these men. “You win some…and sometimes you settle for a rain check. It was a

tired line and no one laughed. (p. 12) Death of a close friend was something that could

not be joked about. The relationships of these soldiers grew to such tight bonds, that

they would go mad if a friend of just a few days ago were killed. Trying to image how

this would feel is unobtainable by anyone who was not in the Vietnam War.

The soldiers of the Vietnam War had a silent love for each other. It might have not

been expressed, but it was there. People who where in the war could never image the

bonds the men shared with each other. The families grew more attached to the soldier

because they were frightened. The soldiers were more scared than anyone could

image. No one knew how they should feel about the war. The soldiers and the families

were confused. Some relationships grew stronger while some weakened. Love was

something that kept the soldiers from insanity. The men felt they had to kill because

that was why they were there. Human nature does not teach someone to kill, but to

love. The Vietnam War showed a lot of people the true meaning of love and made

secure relationships for life.

Works Cited

Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. Directed by Bill Couturie.

Full Metal Jacket. 1987. Directed by Stanley Kubrick.

O’ Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.

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