This blog is a forum for Mentor High School Honors English 12 students to engage in book discussions based on free reading books.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Lew Puller was the son of Chesty Puller, the most decorated soldier in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps. His legendary father fought in five wars and rose from private to three star general before health problems cut short his career. With him as a role model, it was perhaps inevitable that when the time came, Lew would enthusiastically head to Vietnam. This Pulitzer Prize winning autobiography tells the story of Lew Puller's relationship with his father, his own service in Vietnam and of his heroic attempt to rebuild his body and spirit after being dismembered by a booby-trapped howitzer round. He lost his legs and his hands were badly mangled, but he managed to hold together his marriage, help raise a son, earn a law degree and run for Congress.
Then, in the wake of losing the election, his always problematic drinking escalated to the point of genuine alcoholism and he attempted suicide. He went through rehab and became involved in things like the Vietnam War Memorial project, which helped him deal with his emotions about the war.
Unfortunately, right before I finished the book my mom informed me that in 1994 Puller committed suicide. This book and many others that I have read about the Vietnam war really got me interested in the war. It made me think more about the emotions and psyche of the U.S. soldiers instead of all of the glory and action of war. It made me wonder why you never heard of so many cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) before the Vietnam war.
One reason I think cases of PTSD have soared up is based on the amount of time soldiers have between war and going home. In Korea and both World Wars soldiers had months to decompress after battles before they got home. In Vietnam and even the war in the Middle East soldiers go from killing people to home within days. Being around an environment of war and one of "normal life" are completely different. It takes years for these soldiers to recover because they have virtually no transition which, I think, increases PTSD and amplifies the symptoms.
Also, I think it might have to do with the soldiers not having a clear objective and just receiving commands to kill for no apparent purpose. In World War 2 it was obvious to every American that the Nazis needed to be taken down. Even the Russians agreed that Nazis were no good. However in the Vietnam war many of the soldiers had no clear understanding of their presence. They didn't know what they were fighting for. I believe seeing your comrades perish knowing that they have family just like you is severely traumatizing.
So now I have some questions for you.
If you didn't believe in the cause of the war you were currently assigned to fight, what would get you through it? What would you be fighting for?
If you were in a similar situation as Puller, do you honestly think that you would have the strength to be as successful as he was before he committed suicide?