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My Most Humbling Experience Essay

All of us have baggage that we choose to proudly carry or shamefully shove in our deepest, darkest closets. We have possessions that are extensions of our own personalities and each has our own sob stories just the same. They all tell their own tales and have great meaning. In the first chapter of The Things They Carried, with the same name, author Tim O Brien simply, yet skillfully informs his readers of the literal and figurative things that his characters carried throughout the war, the outer and inner struggles they faced while in the heat of battle, and how similar men in war are to men in everyday life.

In the literal sense, the soldiers carried a variety of things. What they carried was partly a function of rank, partly of field specialty to some extent by superstition. O Brien alludes to the fact of life; his simple statement shows how what each man carries in/on his bag is partly due to his rank, just as men in life carry certain objects as a result of social status. Yet, even human fear plays a pivotal role, even when at war. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, codebooks, binoculars, a .45 calibre pistol that weighed 2.9 pounds fully loaded, a strobe light, and for luck, a rabbit s foot and simple pebble from Martha, his love.

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As an RTO, Mitchell Sanders carried the PRC-25 radio, a killer, 26 pounds with its battery. Mitchell Sanders also had with him a set of starched tiger fatigues for special occasions. Black Flag insecticide and a dark brown, four-ounce thumb that had been cut from a VC fifteen-year-old male corpse for good luck were with Henry Dobbins at all times. This abstract charm represents the abstractness of human nature. Due to Rat Kiley s status as the unit medic, he carried a canvas satchel filled with morphine and plasma and malaria and surgical tape and comic books. Not to mention,

M&M s for those wounds that are especially bad. Machine gunner, Henry Dobbins carried the 23 lb. M-60, as well as ten to fifteen pounds of ammunition across his chest and shoulders. Just as many average men carry standard and similar things in life, the common grunts of the unit carried the standard eight-pound, M-16 gas-operated assault rifle. Even the amount of ammunition a man carried depended partly upon how much each particular would psychologically allow himself to carry. This is yet another truism to life.

What they carried varied by the mission. When a mission took them to the mountains, they carried mosquito netting, machetes, canvas tarps, and extra bug juice.

This quote from the chapter The Things They Carried subtly shows how similar war is in relation to life. Just as the soldiers had to change what they carried depending upon their mission, people must change what they carry and how they act in order to survive in the battle of life. It is human nature to prepare oneself for challenges. O Brien alludes to the fact the war is no different.

O Brien then quickly contrasts the non-physical objects that the soldiers carried which held powerful meaning to them just as they relate to the reality of life. For example, Lieutenant Cross not just carried his compass and pistol and strobe light and binoculars, but more importantly, each moment he carried with him the responsibility for the lives of his men. Cross had his letters from Martha that he cherished so, but his true baggage came from his love for Martha and inevitably, her lack of love for him. All of the men carried all that their minds would allow them to; and then some, including a

silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried. After speaking about the gun power all of the soldiers carried, O Brien concludes this paragraph with the aforementioned quote. He casually reminds the readers of the mental burden that the gear placed on the men. He carefully lets the readers know that the physicality of war is not the true battle. Rather, the mentally sickening fight with sanity is what truly affects man’s mind and actions.

He told a tale of the nature of man and how even though war transformed many and attempted to, in a sense, lobotomize and “robotize” man, yet even these lonely soldiers have such human qualities that cannot be stolen from them even when placed in such a massacre. Each man told his own story through what he carried physically as well as metaphysically. In this first chapter, O Brien related to his readers through the natural human emotions many of the soldiers felt when placed in battle. Even though many do not wish to feel at all connected to the brutality of war, one could not help but sympathize with many of the men who, in reality, were not all that different than you or I.

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