Following this Veteran’s Day weekend, pick up some war-time literature and remember the American fighters who gave their lives for our country.
On your kindle
In 1968, a young Midwestern man named Tim O’Brien was drafted by the Army. For two years, he served as an infantryman in Vietnam. When he returned to the United States, O’Brien wrote about his military experiences, blurring truth and fiction to create poignant, heartbreaking stories from the ashes of his traumatic memories.
The Things They Carried, O’Brien’s best-known piece, is a collection of interwoven stories about a platoon of soldiers in Vietnam. In a series of tales, O’Brien focuses on different members of the platoon, both zeroing in on the physical “things” the soldiers carried with them, like love letters and cards, as well as the emotional “things,” like guilt and fear, the war forced them to carry.
O’Brien maintains that fiction is often a better way to reveal the truth of feeling than fact. Read these stories this week, and decide for yourself.
On a smartphone
If your commute is a quick one, check out this New York Times slideshow featuring President Obama as he pays his respects to veterans at Arlington National Cemetery. Whether or not you know war veterans personally, a look through this slideshow can’t help but make you reflect on the sacrifices that men and women of the armed services have made for this country.
On a podcast
Watch these three videos of soldiers returning home from tours of duty abroad—and try not to cry. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stretch on, it can be easy to forget about the real lives of men and women who leave their families behind when they are deployed. In these videos, the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is heartbreakingly true: the faces of the children whose fathers surprise them by returning home are images that’ll stay with you long after your commute ends.
Often celebrated as a pre-eminent American World War II poet, Randall Jarrell is a perfect writer to read in honor of Veteran’s Day. This slim collection features his war-time pieces, as well as his lighter poetry that focuses on children and elderly women.
If you read anything this week though, make it The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner, a famous piece that blends innocence and war-induced experience—two of Jarrell’s strengths.