Book Report: Vietnam War Has Left a Permanent Mark

Pages: 7 (2179 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military  ·  Buy This Paper

Vietnam War has left a permanent mark on history and on the people that interacted directly with it in particular. While the masses normally have a general understanding of the conflict, the individuals who actually took part in it have understood it from their personal perspective, given that the event had a more influential effect on them. Ron Kovic's "Born on the Fourth of July," Bao Ninh's "The Sorrow of War," and Mary Reynolds' "A World of Hurt -- Between Innocence and Arrogance in Vietnam" put across accounts from the Vietnam War as seen from the points-of-view of the protagonists. While these respective protagonists come from different backgrounds, their experiences are relatively similar, as they are all frustrated and left with permanent traumas as a result of their participation in the conflict and because of the events that they went through.

"My wounding in Vietnam both physically and emotionally haunted me, pursued me, and threatened to overwhelm me" (Kovic, 16).

"By the time I left Southeast Asia a year later, I was convinced that everything about U.S. involvement was wrong" (Reynolds, Prologue).

"But we also shared a common sorrow, the immense sorrow of war. It was a sublime sorrow, more sublime than happiness, and beyond suffering" (Ninh, 232).

Wars are generally recognized for the fact that they severely affect society as a whole and individuals who participate in them in particular. It is very difficult and almost impossible for someone who experienced warfare firsthand to ever recover completely, as the respective person has most likely observed atrocities and suffering that no one should see. People like Kovic, Ninh, and Reynolds have produced manuscript detailing their experiences, most probably with the intention to have the rest of the world understand the gravity related to warfare and the fact that it is essential for society to do everything in its power in order to prevent another conflict from taking place. These writers initially considered war to be a justifiable and honorable experience meant to provide victims with freedom and fighters with praiseworthy experiences. They did not know that they were about to embark on a journey that would affect them permanently. Also, they could not imagine the suffering that they were about to witness and actually experience. As a result of reading each of these three accounts, readers are likely to comprehend the fact that one does not understand warfare until he or she experiences one personally.

As Kovic left Vietnam in order to go home, he realized that "there are times in the lives of both individuals and nations when we cross certain thresholds where there is no going back, no return to the innocence we once knew; the change is utter and irreconcilable" (Kovic, 15). As he looked back at the time when he had just turned eighteen and when he looked forward to experience what he thought was a wonderful adventure, he discovered that he was ashamed of his choice to join the army. He actually believed that this particular choice had destroyed the person he was before the war started, given that he experienced both physical and mental traumas as a consequence of his taking part in the conflict.

Mary Reynolds wants people to understand that they should not be eager to engage in warfare, regardless of the motives for going to war are. Similar to many Americans in the 1960s, she considered that it was only natural for her and for her fellow countrymen to want to fight against communism wherever such a conflict was necessary. In comparison to Kovic, however, Reynolds partly knew the horrors that she was about to see when she would arrive in Vietnam, considering that the media had already presented the public with the truth regarding the war during the late 1960s. This made people less willing to support a war that seemed to be never-ending and that imposed a heavy death toll on American soldiers. "Even when I was sent in Vietnam in November, 1970, I understood little of the war. I just hoped it would end" (Reynolds, Prologue). Judging from Reynolds' words, one can understand that in spite of the fact that she was well-acquainted with horrors happening during wartime and with the fact that many Americans would die as a result of this conflict, nothing could actually prepare her for what she was about to witness.

Reynolds and Kovic have both experienced the Vietnam War from the perspective of foreigners and invaders, given that they supported the American war effort and generally regarded the Vietnamese as being their enemies. Because of the fact that the American story concerning the war is told much more often than the Vietnamese one, the masses are inclined to disregard the Vietnamese, their dedication, and their suffering when considering the Vietnam War. People are ignorant regarding the fact that the Vietnamese have lost more than two million men during the war and that this particular conflict has left the country and its people with permanent traumas. Whereas the American public saw the war from the outside, children and civilians in Vietnam experienced battles firsthand. Mostly because of the fact that the media did not provide them with sufficient attention, Vietnam soldiers came to be associated with faceless bodies dedicated to fighting some of America's most respected values. Bao Ninh's story is intriguing because it presents readers with a complex account as seen from the perspective of someone who was actually Vietnamese and who experienced the war to its full extent. Kien, the novel's protagonist, lived through the suffering provoked by the war and came to believe that one of the best and only ways through which he could be actively engaged in the conflict was for him to write in regard to his experiences. Unlike how it is in the case of Kovic and Reynolds, Kien does not initially believe that the war is a glorious event. He is horrified with its bloody nature and with the fact that most of the people that he knows die during the war, with his fellow troopers being rapidly brought down by the other camp. Although one would relate to Kien as being an extremely lucky individual (given that everyone in the Glorious 27th Youth Brigade except for him died), his experiences and the fact that he lost almost everything that he had as a consequence of the war make matters more complicated, as all that remained was a troubled war veteran whose only ability was to recollect the events he witnessed.

Everything about Kovic was American, ranging from the fact that he was born on the fourth of July to how his family had a history in fighting for the U.S. He believed that choosing to join the Marines would be the most honorable act he could perform at the time when the opportunity arose. However, instead of coming across the glorious war experience he expected, he experienced great suffering and abuse, especially given that the American authorities seemed relatively indifferent to his pain. From being an ardent war supporter, Kovic came to be one of the most passionate individuals to criticize the war and everything about it. Instead of being treated like a war hero, Kovic came to be confined to a wheel chair and to a hospital specially designed to incorporate war wounded. It seemed as if no one was willing to listen to him or to want to express any compassion concerning his suffering. Kovic's general purpose in writing the book is to inform people about what it is really like to undergo warfare. The war veteran wants people to understand that there is nothing glorious about seeing your friends killed or about being seriously wounded yourself. It is actually impressive to follow Kovic from the point where he had just finished high school and expressed great determination about joining Marine Cores up to the moment where he is a war veteran devoted to have the masses understand more about the war.

Kovic was motivating in joining the war as a result of a series of factors. His family, his birthday, and the American society as a whole are some of the decisive elements that persuaded Kovic in believing that it was very important for him to get actively involved in what he considered to be a just conflict. "I'll never forget Audie Murphy in To Hell and Back. At the end he jumps on top of a flaming tank that's just about to explode and grabs the machine gun blasting it into the German lines. He was so brave I had chills running up and down my back, wishing it were me up there" (Kovic, 64). The country's war efforts were essential in having more and more young individuals willing to join the war. The government promoted the Vietnam War as being America's attempt at freeing the Vietnamese from becoming entangled in communism. It was probably very difficult for an enthusiastic young American patriot to refrain from wanting to be a part… [END OF PREVIEW]

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