Loss of soldier identity

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The Vietnam War was not a “pretty” war. Soldiers were forced to fight guerilla troops, were in combat during horrible weather, had to live in dangerous jungles, and, worst of all, lost sight of who they were. Many soldiers may have entered with a sense of pride, but returned home desensitized. The protagonist in Louise Erdrich’s “The Red Convertible,” is testament to this. In the story, the protagonist is a young man full of life prior to the war, and is a mere shell of his former self after the war. The protagonists in Tim O’Brien’s “If I Die in a Combat Zone,” and Irene Zabytko’s “Home Soil,” are also gravely affected by war. The three characters must undergo traumatic experiences. Only those who fought in the Vietnam War understand what these men, both fictional and in real life, were subjected to. After the war, the protagonists of these stories must learn to deal with a war that was not fought with to win, rather to ensure the United States remained politically correct in handling the conflict. This in turn caused much more anguish and turmoil for the soldiers. While these three stories may have fictionalized events, they connect with factual events, even more so with the ramifications of war, whether psychological, morally emotional, or cultural. “The Red Convertible,” and “Home Soil,” give readers a glimpse into the life of soldiers once home after the war, and how they never fully return, while “If I Die in a Combat Zone,” is a protest letter before joining the war. All three protagonists must live with the aftermath of the Vietnam War: the loss of their identity.

Erdrich’s “The Red Convertible,” and Zabytko’s “Home Soil,” both give a strong interpretation of two distinct reactions. In their powerful words of fiction, th...

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...ust deal with similar pains. Through the authors of these stories, we gain a better sense of what soldiers go through and the connection war has on the psyche of these men. While it is true, and known, that the Vietnam War was bloody and many soldiers died in vain, it is often forgotten what occurred to those who returned home. We overlook what became of those men and of the pain they, and their families, were left coping with. Some were left with physical scars, a constant reminder of a horrible time in their lives, while some were left with emotional, and mental, scarring. The universal fact found in all soldiers is the dramatic transformation they all undergo. No longer do any of these men have a chance to create their own identity, or continue with the aspirations they once held as young men. They become, and will forever be, soldiers of the Vietnam War.

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