The Vietnam War was a controversial conflict that plagued the United States for many years. The loss of life caused by the war was devastating. For those who came back alive, their lives were profoundly changed. The impact the war had on servicemen would affect them for the rest of their lives; each soldier may have only played one small part in the war, but the war played a huge part in their lives. They went in feeling one way, and came home feeling completely different. In the book Vietnam Perkasie, W.D. Ehrhart describes his change from a proud young American Marine to a man filled with immense confusion, anger, and guilt over the atrocities he witnessed and participated in during the war.
Growing up, Ehrhart lived in a small town called Perkasie, where he had a very safe and comfortable life. He had always felt prideful of his country. He would ride around with red, white, and blue crepe paper hanging from his bicycle and was brought to tears by the ceremonies on Memorial Day. As a child, he played war with his friends and loved the battery powered toy gun he got one Christmas. It only seemed natural to him that he would join the service someday.
His pride and loyalty to his country came to a peak when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. That year he wrote on his notebook “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” (page 8). This instilled in him a need to do something more, a need to serve his country. When it came to choose a college, he decided he would rather join the Marines. When describing his decision he said, “I guess it sort of means something to me- you know, that old lump in the throat when you hear the Star- Spangled Banner” (Ehrhart, 60).
He felt that he enlisted...
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...f his stay in Vietnam, he had wished he had never heard that word. He became horrified by this war. The once proud American was no longer so proud of his country. The Vietnam War was not like the movies he saw as a child; “the screams were real, and when men fell down they didn’t get up, and the sticky wet substance splattering against your leg was somebody’s intestines” (Ehrhart, 246). Although he had his family and friends around him upon his return home, it seemed that Ehrhart was alone in “The World.” Unless someone was there, they could not possibly understand the thoughts and memories he had to live with. The gruesome memories from Vietnam had permeated him completely; they engraved into his mind and would undoubtedly scar him forever.
Ehrhart, W.D. "Vietnam Perkasie". University of Massachusetts Press; second edition edition (June 9, 1995)