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Robber Barons

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Robber Barons

Post traumatic stress disorder is a set of psychological problems caused by exposure to a dangerous situation. Following the Vietnam War this condition was brought into the public view on a large scale as a result of the countless number of soldiers who came home with completely different personalities and behavior. Many veterans suffered from a wide range of emotional problems as they struggled to cope with their feelings about the war, and life in general. These problems were most evident in the form of depression and severe feelings of guilt. As a result of these symptoms many veterans have either committed suicide or ended up in prison due to their inability to once again adapt to life at home. One particular work which serves as document to the psychological as well as physical damages of war, and reiterates the widespread notion that combat is never justified is The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. As a veteran of the war himself, the author is able to give the readers an accurate and chilling reenactment of real events that he himself witnessed so that people can better grasp the reasons why many soldiers left home as one person, and came home a completely different one.

At the time the war began American morale and national pride were still very strong as a result of the military's successful campaign in WWII. The notion that the army could never be defeated was a widely accepted idea as they were easily the largest and most well trained in the world. Vietnam proved to be a rude awakening for most people because it shattered all conventional wisdom that the United States was untouchable when it came to matters concerning the military. As public support of the war dwindled rapidly at home, most soldiers felt as if their efforts were going completely unnoticed and unappreciated. Although they expected a warm welcome upon their return home like those of wars past received, soldiers were dismayed to find that their own people greeted them with scorn and disgust. They felt like failures in the eyes of their fellow countrymen due to the fact that they could not win the war. The general public was indifferent and even somewhat angry at them because the war had grown to be such an unpopular one. This only furthered the extent of the problems veterans faced because they had been cast into the war torn jungles of Southeast Asia where their innocence was stolen from them only to return to a home where they were outcasts in their own society. For the most part the behavior of veterans was considered to be erratic and unacceptable due to the fact that nobody understood the horrors which they had witnessed. Within ten years after the war's end, over twenty-five percent of soldiers were arrested on criminal charges due to their inability to once again assimilate (Almanac pg. 183). No longer could veterans decipher the difference between right and wrong because in Vietnam there were no rules; animalism was essential and encouraged as a means of survival. They felt a stronger connection with the dead rather than the living because after going through hell with their brothers in arms and losing them on the battlefield, the wants and needs of the people at home seemed completely insignificant in the broad spectrum of things. When describing her own experiences, ex Nurse Joan Furey explains that "you didn't feel there was anything you ever could enjoy again because you really were immersed in death." (Almanac). It is estimated that about 800,000 people who served in Vietnam have suffered from this disorder since returning home (Almanac pg 182). This is a reflection of the internal struggle that veterans are forced to try to cope with every day and the ravaging psychological damage that it inflicts on a person.

Often times in order to avoid having to revisit a horrifying experience people will store it away in the depths of their memories, letting it fester there and eat away at them emotionally. This is the method most veterans took in order to forget the numbness and empty feeling the war left them with. In The Things They Carried the narrator, Tim O'Brien, takes a different approach. Rather than keeping his feelings locked away inside and allowing himself to be consumed by guilt he uses his ability to tell stories as a therapeutic way to express himself. He serves as an excellent example of the importance of sharing stories as a healing process because he seems far better off than his fellow comrades such as Johnny Cross. Cross is unable to accept the deaths of Ted Lavender and Kiowa and is flooded with guilt because he feels as if he could have saved their lives if only he would have acted more on his own premonitions rather than just following orders. He is a prime example of the innocence of the soldiers because he is thrown into the fierce setting of war as only a sophomore in college, he joins only to gain a few credits and

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