ENG 3010: The Things We Carry (with excerpts from The Things They Carried): Loss, Divorce, and the Vietnam War

Loss is a funny thing.

It is inevitable, expected in the grand scheme, natural…

Loss is for the strong and the weak. It’s for the cowards and the heroes. It’s for the young and the old, the poor and the rich.

And yet it is so unexpected, it is… emotional, undeniable, incomprehensible at times. Loss is a deep thing. And yet, life goes on. Even if it’s not life as we knew it.

Loss, you see, it only reminds us that we’re human.

Because when you lose something, you know it. You feel it. All at once, or a little at a time, you feel it. You carry it.

[They carried their reputations. They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to.]

War is also a funny thing.

Once you step from being and into the grounds of war, all bets are off. Life and all its rules and norms are put on hold as you walk into a reality that’s been created for you.

And so the problem with war is that no one knows what’s been lost until it’s over. They say the battle is won or lost on the field.
But that’s not true at all.

Countries might win wars, but people never do.

The assets might get split right down the middle, but in divorce, everyone loses.

Because the nature of war and divorce is this: a shot is fired and both men die.

[I survived, but it’s not a happy ending. I was a coward. I went to war.]

You see I hate war and I hate the things we carry because of it.
…but I’m no pacifist.

I believe there’s a time to fight.

Because sometimes you’re empty and it’s ok because you know that water is on the way.


When things start to change slowly, but then one day you wake up and life isn’t changing, it’s actually changed. When they say it’s changed for good, that some things just happen and people change and when people change life changes. When you know that you’re in one of those moments that you’ll always look back to. When for the first time it hurts more to look forward than it does to look back…

That’s when you fight.

That’s when you fight because you realize that the water you’ve been waiting for all these years is being taken away from you.

 The truth is I’m not a vietnam soldier.

…but loss, you see, is a funny thing.

Because it’s for the best of us and the worst of us. It’s for the children and the parents. It’s for the kings and the servants. It’s for the soldiers and it’s for the civilians. 

And it only reminds us that we’re human.


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