The Hearts of Soldiers
War is a political conflict between nations. It brings the loss, sacrifice, and destruction of involved countries. To many America’s soldiers, the Vietnam War is an unforgettable battle that takes place in Vietnam. It is a battle between those who supported Communism and those who against Communism. War takes away precious things of youth such as lives, love, soul, and freedom. They (soldiers) know that they are fighting for such a meaningless reason; but they must do it for their country. The story The Things They Carried is important to tell because it helps readers understand experiences of soldiers’ lives during wartime.
There are sixteen men in a platoon. They are under a young man who just graduated from college not long ago and has no war’s experiences. This story describes the war from a personal perspective, the human nature, and then goes into the personal feeling by naming things that each soldier carries tangible and intangible that they think might help them during wartime. The things that each of them carry represent their characteristics. Henry Dobbins is superstitious and big; he carries his girlfriend's pantyhose as his lucky charm and M-60 that weights 23 pounds. Ted Lavender carries a lot of ammos and tranquilizers to calm himself because he is nervous. Kiowa is a religious man; he carries an illustrated New Testament. They bring all the things that they think can protect their lives in this war because they are afraid of amputations and other serious physical disabilities that the might get during this time. The most important thing to them right now is to stay alive long enough until they can get back home. As Raymond Scurfiled describes in his book, war is dangerous and it causes serious wounds and death for soldiers. He adds that “They either recovered sufficiently to be returned to duty or to be reassigned to other duty in the war zone due to the nature of their wounds; or their condition was so serious that they had to be evacuated out of Vietnam, and we never heard or saw from them again” (31). They are scared because they don’t know what they are fighting for and they are under control of an abstracted and careless leader that is Jimmy Cross.
Jimmy Cross, a leader of this platoon. He carries letters from Martha, the girl back home who he loves and wants her to love him. However, she does not love him at all. She is his biggest distraction because she gives him something to think about and something that takes his mind off the war. As a leader, Jimmy Cross carries the responsibility of his men’s lives. He must be the most reliable man, but he is not at all. His mind is all about his untouchable love for Martha while his platoon is dependent on him and his support. He is never there for them and that causes Ted Lavender’s death. Ted Lavender’s death is a turning point of this story when Jimmy Cross blames himself about Ted’s death. He hates himself for his unrealistic feelings about Martha that distracts him from his duty. He wants to kill the sentimentality that he knows as a destructive force during wartime and cause of his man’s death. Adjacent to the death, his soul becomes tougher and colder. He realizes that he is here to lead not to love. He burns Martha's pictures and letters because he now hates her. He knows that he could have done a better job of looking out for his men. O’Brien describes how Jimmy Cross pushes his love for Martha away and takes his leadership seriously: “Instead he went back to his maps. He was now determined to perform his duties firmly and without negligence. It wouldn't help Lavender, he knew that, but from this point on he would comport himself as an officer”(26). He now is a responsible leader that his men can look for support. He has more strength and confidence to lead his platoon in this war. He tries to clean up the mess he has made. Jimmy Cross begins planning the day’s march for his