Table of Contents
The setting of the story is in New York City. Few years ago, when I went to California for spending my vacations, I met Mathew. He fought in the Vietnam War (Shaw, 2014). During that time, he handed me his personal diary from where the below story has been developed.
The plot and dialogues
In 1970, Mathew’s life changed drastically. Since his childhood he aspired to become a soldier and fight bravely for his country. His parents belonged from the America itself. Mathew’s mother was a housewife and his father owned a licensed gun shop. Many government officials came to his father’s shop, ‘Gunpoint’, to purchase guns and revolvers for several purposes. During that time, political agitation was also quite high in America.
Mathew’s inspiration to become a soldier was almost innate in nature. He was inclined towards war movies, soldiers’ stories, and U.S’s victory in the battlefields. However, he hardly knew about the dreadful effect that a war has on a soldier’s life. His parents always encouraged him to pursue any career of his choice. When he was 18 years old, America decided to send its battalion in the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, he only knew about the superior American warfare techniques and military strategies but was unknown about the soldiers’ helplessness in the battlefield. Mathew was a proud soldier when he started to fight in the Vietnam War (Reid, 2017). Several days passed like by till U.S. political leaders’ involvement and strategies started to become clear.
After a month, when Mathew was transferred to the battlefield of Ho Chi Minh City, in the midst of 18th day of the war, he said his commander, “We are waiting for your order to shoot Sir.” “How long we will have to wait, our cannons are ready?” The commander said, “It is no more in my hands, you all have to wait, until and unless the U.S. leaders will order us take further steps.” Soon it was clear to Mathew how they were mere puppets in the Vietnam War.
As the days passed by, slowly and steadily, sounds of the cannons and several combats were making Mathew panicky and his rosy outlook for fighting in the wars was fading in the background. The only thing he wanted then was to go back to his homeland, in his comfort zone (Short, 2014). He, then, simply wanted to lead to an ordinary life; any heroism act hardly encouraged him. It is truer when a soldier loses his autonomy and leads life of a puppet.
Meanwhile, in America, anti-war movements were conducted. However, after severe mental traumas and physical ailments, Mathew and his fellow soldiers were sent back to America. All these bitter experiences depreciated some amount of Mathew’s patriotism (Bacevich, 2013). It is better to say that his reluctance towards the wars became high.
The real struggle of Mathew, however, started after he came back to America. Most of the people looked down upon the U.S. soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War. They were blamed for intense traumas, chaos, and bloodsheds in Vietnam. Mathew was devastated and his hopes that spiraled around his dreams of becoming a brave soldier and to fight for his country shattered heavily.
After Mathew came back home, he completely confined in his mother for sharing the nightmares and pursing heavenly peace. In his first post-war interaction, Mathew said, “All wars are evil on both the sides.” “No war can ever accomplish anything, however strategically it is fought.” His mother said, “No soldier was ennobled ever by his battlefield sacrifices.” “Racism, drug abuse, and dependency on alcohol work as a soldier’s support system in the warfront, which ultimately degrade his quality of life, even more”.
In the later years of his life, Mathew closed down the gun shop of his father and engaged in social works. Even he went to Vietnam for his several social endeavors.
One day, Mathew was sitting with his childhood friend and battlefield companion, Adam. Suddenly, he said, “Do you know Adam? The soldiers are nothing but just helpless pawns in any battlefield.” “It is the political leaders of different industrialized nations who are engaged in the battles, silently.” “Becoming a soldier is merely one of the boyish fancies, stimulated by different patriotic poems, artistic pieces, and war movies, which a child often dreams off.”
The disrespect and disgust that the American antiwar movement civilians showed towards Mathew and other soldiers of Vietnam War left a scar in their mind. Mathew believed that it is not only him but several soldiers had difficulty adjusting to the new American society. Some of them took many years to sleep peacefully because of the echoing sounds of cannons in their minds, while others had to deal with their drug addictions (May, 2013). On top of that the war snatched away many of Mathew’s friends from him. The lasting impression of violence and sounds of cannons haunted Mathew throughout his life.
- Bacevich, A. J. (2013). The new American militarism: How Americans are seduced by war. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- May, C. (2013). The short story: The reality of artifice. London: Routledge.
- Reid, I. (2017). The short story (Vol. 34). London: Routledge.
- Shaw, V. (2014). The short story: A critical introduction. London: Routledge.
- Short, A. (2014). The origins of the Vietnam War. London: Routledge.