Exposing the Truth in Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong
"Dear Mom and Dad: The war that has taken my life, and many thousands of others before me, is immoral, unlawful, and an atrocity," (letter of anonymous soldier qtd. In Fussell 653).
Tim O'Brien, a Vietnam war vet, had similar experiences as the soldier above. Even though O'Brien didn't die, the war still took away his life because a part of him will never be the same. Even in 1995, almost thirty years after the war, O'Brien wrote, "Last night suicide was on my mind. Not whether, but how. Tonight it will be on my mind again... I sit in my underwear at this unblinking fool of a computer and try to wrap words around a few horrid truths" (Vietnam 560). 1 think that O'Brien is still suffering from what he experienced in Vietnam and he uses his writing to help him deal with his conflicts. In order to deal with war or other traumatic experiences, you sometimes just have to relive the experiences over and over. This is what O'Brien does with his writing; he expresses his emotional truths even if it means he has to change the facts of the literal truth.
The literal truth, or some of the things that happen during war, are so horrible that you don't want to believe that it could've actually have happened. For instance, "[o]ne colonel wanted the hearts cut out of the dead Vietcong to feed to his dog.... Ears were strung together like beads. Parts of Vietnamese bodies were kept as trophies; skulls were a favorite... The Twenty-fifth Infantry Division left a 'visiting card,' a torn off shoulder patch of the division's emblem, stuffed in the mouth of the Vietnamese they killed," (Fussell 655). While we don't want to believe these things because they sound too atrocious, soldiers like O'Brien come home and tell us that these stories are true. In fact, when we read in "The Vietnam in Me" about the trial of Lt. Calley and Charlie Company, we find out that the truth was worse than the stories. From the facts from the trial, we learn that there were anywhere from 343 - 504 fatalities and. that "[t]he crimes visited on the inhabitants of Son My Village included individual and group acts of murder, rape, sodomy, maiming, assault on noncombatants and the mistreatment and killing of detainees," ( Col. Wilson as qtd in Vietnam 562). You might think that what happened in My Lai was the worst of it all, but O'Brien says that, "Wreckage was the rule. Brutality was S.O.P." (566). Because the war was so confusing and because the soldiers couldn't tell who the enemy was, many felt that, "the army had no solution but to kill people, uniformed or not, old or young, male or female, proven Viet Cong or not," (Fussell 654). To me this is how some tried to justify killing but still some just couldn't make themselves feel as if they were justified.
The result of this guilt for the soldiers, psychologically, is that some of them seemed to go insane. For instance, at the trial, one of the soldiers of Charlie...