The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brian – The things I carry always.


IMG_5328One of the most frightening sounds I’ve ever heard was the cracking/zip, for lack of a better description, sound a bullet fired from a rifle makes as it passes you. It’s not a fear that it’s chasing you or that you might die. It’s as simple as the fear you might get hit, that you have been seen and someone is trying to kill you.

The most frightening things I ever saw was when I was 10. My first dead body; at 56 I can still see clearly the man’s face and the wart on his forehead. I can still feel the fear I felt when I turned to find I was the only one in the room with this dead guy. Not so scary now or even when I was 16; but when I was 10 it was the most frightening thing ever.

Thought my life I’ve lived many an experience that for most people would be foreign some worse then others but all experiences that I would not wish on anyone. Secrets hidden deep inside, that no one knows. Truth be told things I will more then likely take to my grave rather then burden others with.

Today I had Jury Duty and on the way out of the house today I grabbed a book off my bookshelf that has been sitting there for years, one that I bought that I meant to read but never got to it. It pulled these things and secrets buried in my mind forward.

It’s titled “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brian. It opened allot of wounds and sometimes hard to read; but I kept reading like an insect drawn to the back porch light at night. It’s and odd book not only by the way it was written, but how the content is arranged. But i’m confused

How can this be Fiction?

It was if the book was written so that only grunts would truly “get it.” I can’t see a civilian understanding this book; I’m sure they would get some sort of ‘entertainment’ from it and really I don’t mean to be insulting but I think the average person won’t get the; hmmm how do I phrase this?… maybe deeper meaning? I mean by a civilian, I feel, would be taken at face value; pictures created in their mind of the people in the stories would just be characters. For me, and possibly other grunts, the characters in this book come scary close of looking like people we know or have seen in our past. The spaces between we are able to fill sounds, voices and smells that aren’t in the book. How can you know what a hump feels like unless you’ve lived it? How can you know what M18 yellow smells like unless you have popped it?

This was an odd book that brought back odd feelings… I couldn’t put it down and by reading this book, fiction or not, it made me realized something that I have known and have denied for a long time.

I have failed as a father, I have allowed my children to experience the horrors of war and the hollow feeling you feel back in the world. I knew full well what they would face and what they would feel but I allowed them to go. My Dad use to tell me “You don’t have to join the Military, Your grandfather and I have paid our families debit to our county for you” I never gave my children that opportunity.

I have not protected my children, I have failed and this is the most painful part of this book.

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2 Responses to The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brian – The things I carry always.

  1. pauldburton says:

    You have not failed your children. You never will as long as you are there for them when they need to talk or feel the support of their father. People chose their own course through life. Each person deals with their burdens in their own way.
    Pushing your children in another direction would not necessarily have protected them. It may be that they learn something that will save their life in the future; you cannot tell.
    When/if your children show that they need you; be there. Don’t question what they experienced or what it means to them, just be there to listen, understand and support.

    • usabaker says:

      Thanks Paul, it’s hard to have this realization and then recognize the issues one of my kids is having after their return home form the middle east. It was worse the it will be the 2nd Christmas away from home. Thank you for the thoughts and outlooks,

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