The blog will now feature guest posts from our talented community of writers. This week we feature David Chrisinger’s review of Kill Anything that Moves. We are excited to bring you these new and exciting voices.
“Let Veterans Say What They Need to Say”
The men of my grandfather’s generation, who fought the Second World War, are famous for their stoicism regarding the horrors of combat and the struggles of coming home. “The war was in the past. Nobody wanted to hear about those things,” my grandmother told me after my grandfather passed away in 2000.
This sort of silence was even more pronounced for the combat veterans of my father’s generation–those who fought in Vietnam. “In terms of a supportive community in which to digest their experiences,” Dr. Jonathan Shay writes, “the situation for them was worse than it had been for their fathers.”
The danger in not knowing the true costs of war is that, “A society ‘protected’ from the reality of war,” according to author Kevin Sites, “can rewrite the narrative, shaping and forming it into something less terrible and costly by emphasizing only the heroism and triumphs rather than the dark, ugly deeds that occur with much greater frequency than we care to imagine or discuss.”
My own understanding of the Vietnam War changed abruptly a few months ago, after I finished reading Kill Anything That Moves by Nick Turse.
Based on files of the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group, Turse argues that, “Murder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, and imprisonment without due process” were “virtually a daily fact of life throughout the years of the American presence in Vietnam” and that they were “the inevitable outcome of deliberate policies, dictated at the highest levels of the military.”
Turse ultimately blames part of the problem on the fact that we as a country never really discussed the true nature of war when our troops came home from from the Second World War.
“Many had gone to Vietnam with their heads filled by visions of their fathers’ war,” Turse writes, “as seen through the prism of the John Wayne movies of their childhoods. The war they would fight, however, proved to be nothing like it had been on the silver screen.”
We do a great disservice if we prevent the sorts of stories Turse uncovered from being told. Not only does doing so unjustifiably absolve the country as a whole from its own responsibility for sending its young men to war, but it also prevents veterans from making peace with themselves.
After more than 12 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, let’s make sure we give our veterans the chance to tell us what they need to say.
David Chrisinger works to close the divide between veterans and civilians by helping post-9/11 veterans tell their stories of war. This past October, he ran a 50-mile ultramarathon to raise money for The Mission Continues.
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