What We Make

English 360: War Stories

WAR STORIES- SYLVIA ELLIS

 

It is impossible to know what war is like from the outside.

 

I say that and then I re-read the NY Times article by Phil Klay (2-8- 14) “After War, a Failure of the Imagination.”

 

“The civilian wants to respect what the veteran has gone through. Theveteran wants to protect memories that are painful and sacred to him from outside judgment. But the result is the same: the veteran in a corner by himself, able to proclaim about war but not discuss it, and the civilian shut out from a conversation about one of the most morally fraught activities our nation engages in—war.”

 

Later in his article Klay says: “You don’t honor someone by telling them, I can never imagine what you’ve been through. Instead, listen to their story and try to imagine being in it, no matter how hard or uncomfortable that feels.”

 

I think that is what we’ve been attempting to do in the articles and books we’ve been reading in this course. I have early trauma in my own life and many years of psychotherapy, which has made me a good psychotherapist, able to listen, to empathize, and to appreciate the importance of integrating past experiences and moving out of the past and into the present.

 

But we’re reading about men going into battle, often into the unexpected—initially excited about being in battle, then fearful and often ashamed of being afraid. Some emerge intact, but we’re reading about many who aren’t intact, either with disabilities, physical or mental and the unseen emotional scars. Klay’s article suggests even when soldiers come back seemingly intact, they have stories to tell, which when untold and unheard leave them isolated, separated from the world they live with and in, that is, with us.

 

I think of Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried) telling the same stories over and over from various angles adding and subtracting details as memory shifts and with the need to one day get it right; knowing there isn’t any right. As he moves through 30 years of “memories and imagination”: the brutality of war and the men he knew who died in the service and the girl he loved as a nine-year-old boy, who died of a brain tumor, he realizes he’s trying to save his own life with a story.

 

Martha Radditz (“The Long Road Home”) was the most painful book for me to read. The ‘worst case scenario’ happened and Sadr city became a full-fledged war instead of a peace keeping mission. Major Shinseki had warned the administration of this, but they didn’t take him seriously so the troops were not prepared with the equipment they needed. Sadr City became another Vietnam—a war with insurgents we were not prepared for or trained to fight. Since his arrival in Bagdad, General Chiarelli “learned what so many commanders before him learned, and always the hard way: The enemy has a vote.”

 

I think of Lieutenant Aquro trapped in the alleyway in Sadr City seeing a bird overhead, his thoughts returning to the warning his wife had given him: “In every war,” she had cautioned, “there is always a platoon that’s gets pinned down. Don’t let that be your platoon.” Under fire the men were amazingly brave—doing whatever they could to help and protect each other. This included the medics as well as commanders on the ground.

 

I was particularly impressed by the relationship between Thomas Young and Robert Miltenberger. ABC’s Martha Radditz arranged a meeting between thetwo men 10 years later. Young was totally paralyzed and had become an anti-war activists; Miltenberger had remained guilty over telling Young a story that he wasn’t paralyzed on his way back to camp in the Humvee, but had other men laying on him. They were able to talk and Young said he had nothing to feel guilty about—he knew he was trying to calm him.

 

I think of the pain of the commanders like Gary Volsky who promised himself to bring his men home and felt he had broken his promise when a man was lost, injured, or died. I found General Chiarelli a very humane and compassionate man. He cried when he went through the names of the dead. In the camp Chaplin Pena encouraged the soldiers to cry, to let their emotions run free, but he also knew there was no way to deal with the horror and grief they felt and would never be able to share the reality of their experience with those they loved in their lives.

 

So many of the orders from commanders are far away from the ground battle and who can’t see what is going on, give orders to commanders actually fighting on the ground; orders that are inappropriate. For example, impassable roads in Black Hawk Down, or the coordinates given to Lieutenant Cross which landed his men in the shit field. These orders are wrong and require so many levels of communication that the reality of what is needed is lost. The commanders on the ground are required to follow the orders even if they know they are wrong. This may be military protocol, but it made me very angry—to know lives were lost because there was such poor communication.

 

Finally we are facing what happens to veterans and their wives who havebeen traumatized by war—what they have seen, felt and done. They dream events over and over. They re-experience what has happened, Emory’s blood in Schumann’s mouth as he carried him to safety, Aieti dreaming over and over about his inability to save Harreleson in flames. They have bouts of rage—frequently directed at their wives.

 

Often men like Schumann can’t believe anything is wrong with him—even with his fits of rage. “he’s weak, a pussy, full of shit.” Although his wife is also full of rage, she knows the women have to adapt, and she sees her husband as a “broken good guy” and sticks with him. Golombe’s (who has TBI and PTSD) wife, Cristiana said she was “grieving for the man he was.”

 

The words lonely comes up over and over, isolated, trapped inside themselves, depressed, cut off from the world, full of guilt, shame, self loathing, are some of the words that stay with me. “while the truth of war is that it’s always about loving the guy next to you, the truth of the after-war is that you’re on your on your own.” The army has people working with wounded soldiers trying to get them into programs the army provides, (some are privately run and too short) or jobs or resources. Afraid to tell those closest to them of their experiences—often denying problems they are having to counselors. “you can’t leave the war, you just carry it with you.”

 

Finally Schumann was able to get in a program called Pathway Housedeveloped by a vet, now social worker, and separate from the military and providing long care treatment where men explored their lives from childhood on and were able to share and feel their pain. Schumann had the ambivalence he always had about acknowledging he had problems, but “decides to tell everything and finally stop dying.”

 

It created the problems for Saskia and his family of being without money while he was there. A problem I felt strongly about. Although there was the FRG (the sisterhood of army spouses) that Radditz spoke about at Fort Hood which helped families with paperwork, visited when soldiers were injured or died, but there wasn’t anyone to help for injured soldiers wives once they returned. They needed help with finances when their spouses went to programs. It seemed to me there were people to help soldiers try to find jobs, but wives got very little—no one provided counseling, or paid for baby sitters to give them a break, or provided child care while wives worked. This would put an amazing amount of additional stress on a family.

 

As the number of suicides steadily increases General Chiarelli is given the task as to chair monthly meetings on suicide prevention. The numbers of suicides have continued to climb. He tries to convey the urgency of the problem, to convey the importance of the soldier’s mental health. Fewer and fewer people from Washington show up to the meetings and soon Chiarelli retires and doesn’t know if anyone picks up the baton.

 

Do I know more about the experience of war? Yes, I feel I do. There is power in the events that are described and the experiences of the soldiers and their wives. These books didn’t speak from a distance—I often experienced being there with the soldiers and with their wives. It’s not quite like speaking to someone as I sit across from them while I am doing therapy—seeing their facial and bodily expressions, but as close as one can get from reading a book.

 

So many of the orders from commanders far away from the ground battleand given to commanders on the ground actually fighting in the war, for example in Black Hawk Down, or the coordinates given to Lieutenant Cross which landed his men in the shit field are wrong and require so many levels of communication that the reality of what is needed is lost. The commanders on the ground are required to follow the orders even if they know they are wrong.

 


 

SYLVIA ELIAS has an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Powelton Village. “When I was young, reading and writing was difficult for me. The first thing I wrote about was sitting with my mother as she was dying. I know in hindsight many of the details of our time together would have been lost, so I appreciate the opportunity I had to be with her and record my experience.” She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction.

 


 

GOING BACK- MARY CAPAROSA

 

“They can take me back any day,” James said, stretching his arms wide until his shoulder blades touched. He rolled his neck back a forth a few times, working out the kinks. When he’s not sitting watching war movies and smoking weed, he’s stretching out his permanently sore muscles.

 

War was not kind to James’ body.

 

“Yeah?” I looked at him from the corner of my eye, “You think you’d want to go back?” I’m not convinced that he has thought this one through. James and I have been friends ever since I started photographing him two years ago. I was doing a project on veterans and he was the very first one that had agreed to sit down with me and talk. When I photographed him the very first time, he was only a year out of the Marines. The life had not yet returned to his eyes.

 

War was not kind to James’ mind, either.

 

Now, though, he’s doing a lot better. His eyes are bright and blue, some of the clearest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. He’s let his hair grow in again. I looked at him then, appreciating the changes that time had made. He was looking out the window, nodding.

 

“I could definitely go back. It’s what I’m trained to do. It’s what I’m good at.” He smiled, full of bravado, “I love that lifestyle, Mary.” When he looked back at me, I wondered if he was trying to convince himself.

 

I can only accept James’ words at face value. I can’t read his mind just yet, but I’ve gotten pretty good at seeing what lies behind them. The War Stories class I took summer term helped me with that. We spent most of the class reading about intimate, behind the scenes looks at the lives and thoughts of veterans. I learned a lot about their everyday struggles, things James had never told me, or maybe just things I didn’t pick up on.

 

The most important thing that I learned is that you never know what is going on behind closed doors, or in the hearts and minds of closed people. James always told me that the military made him more secretive, less likely to trust. “I know you would never hurt me,” he would clarify, his arms wrapping around my waist while we made dinner, “but this is just how I’m trained.” I never knew if his arms were there to protect me or him.

 

He’s trained to not speak up with answers first. Like most veterans, he waits to be asked before offering any information.

 

“Hey James!” I walk into his apartment today, greeting the dog and tossing my bag on the couch. I grab the recorder out of my bag and head toward the bedroom. Today I’m going to interview him for the War Stories class. I don’t know quite what I want to write about, but I figure I’ll just let him talk like usual and we’ll see what happens. His dog, Harley turns and looks at me sadly and I wonder why James has yet to respond to my call.

 

My heart beats faster. I don’t know what I’m going to find in his bedroom. All the stories that we’ve read in class flash through my mind. My heart is in my throat as I think the worst. But when I cross the threshold, he is there, head in hands, sitting on the bed. There’s a piece of paper and an official envelope on the floor next to him. I walk to him and pick up the letter. “May I?”

 

He nods, but doesn’t look up. I begin to read through the letter, but I don’tunderstand it. “James, love, I’m sorry, I don’t know what any of this means.” He looks up, blue eyes sparkling with tears and my fears are confirmed. All of his bravado from the other day is gone.

 

“I have to go back.” He whispered, voice hoarse and strained. “I don’t want to go back.”

 

As I crawl into his lap and stroke his hair that will soon be cut off, I think of the class again. I use the phrase that I have read so many times, the phrase that soldiers say to their wives, their children, and their fellow servicemen.

 

“You’re going to be okay,” I say, even though I don’t know if it’s true. I guess that’s what I learned the most. I learned that when you’re on the complex subject of war, you won’t get all of the talking points right. You may not know what to say or how to say it, but you have to say something. It may get awkward or sad, but in the end, it will be okay.

 

It will be okay, even if you don’t know if it’s true right now.

 


MARY CAPAROSA is an English major and photography minor graduating in Fall 2016. She was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories.

 


 

KILLER COMPASSION- MARIA MICK

 

Hatred, aggression, and insanity all contributed to the intense stories of bloodshed we read in this class. We saw men and women get blown up in Iraq
in insurgent filmed videos while listening to the chanting prayers (of all things) in the background while the insurgents were recording the explosions. We read about visceral spillage and shooting of animals for no good reason other than needing to blow off steam. The gore and hatred was beyond what I imagined would make up the scope of the class, yet it is not surprising to the reality of war. Instead, what was surprising was those moments of compassion. Those moments stuck with me like Command strips stick with a wall.

 

Many of those compassionate moments crept into the material like a mouse sneaking into its hole in the wall, but once I noticed them, they hit me like a brick. For example, in the documentary Two Days in October, we saw perspectives of both the American soldiers and the Viet Cong. In one moment in particular, the Viet Cong soldiers were traveling to find food as they had not eaten proper nourishment in quite a few days. They spotted a monkey in the tree and asked permission to shoot it for food. Their leader said no. He said that the monkey was just trying to survive like they were. Wow. That statement is one that I ponder on an almost daily basis. It would not have surprised me if they were so frustrated, hungry, and anxious that they would have shot the monkey anyway (even just for the fun of it). But they didn’t.

 

This was especially surprising considering that this was the Viet Cong. Granted, they were indeed our enemies as they were killing our men, and American patriotism is quite important. However, those supposed evil monsters saved a monkey. The compassion in that moment gave them character. That group of soldiers put the term humane back into the idea of humanity.

 

Another moment of striking compassion was in the novel The Things They Carried. This still related to the Vietnam War, but on the American side this time. One woman was dancing in a trance and with purpose outside of her essentially destroyed home, containing her deceased family members in its ruin. When the soldiers needed to find amusement later in the day and chose to imitate her in a disrespectful manner, the machine gunner came over and threatened to harm the soldier if he did not dance “properly.”

 

This was an amazing moment to read. They just faced destruction and wreckage all day and one of them still had enough guts and decency to call the asshole out and tell him to act properly and respectfully in memory of the dancing woman. I really wonder what he thought at the time when he saw the actual girl dancing. Was he in awe? Did his heart swell with respect and admiration? Did he feel pity? Did it remind him of his sister?

 

When we think about war, we get so damn caught up sometimes in the blood, the killing, the weapons, that we fail to pick out these small moments of care and love. (Even think of World War I, when on Christmas 1914, fighting ceased and enemies became friends sharing stories and snacks for the day.) Maybe that is what is wrong with our world as a whole, we don’t take the time to find those moments of hope and peace, let alone contribute to them ourselves.

 

We also read about the “beauty” of war — when the bursting of bombs creates a “beautiful” explosion. Maybe that is part of the beauty of war. However, I believe the true beauty of war is in those select few moments we heard and read about. The beauty of war is those moments of compassion that cause you to think “Dang. I wish I could be like that.” Those instances where you feel your heart expanding in your chest and a feeling of love for all things human surges in. That moment when we realize that they are soldiers, but just like us and feel love, pain, and compassion. They feel the kind of compassion that causes you to be a true hero—by demonstrating a truly genuine, “killer” sense of compassion.

 

 


 

MARIA MICK is a veterinary school bound biology major at Drexel University. She was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories class.

 


 

YOU DON’T NEED TO UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING- Nicole Molino

 

As someone studying behavioral health counseling, I like to think that I have a pretty decent understanding of human nature. Not to say that I can predict a person’s actions, but usually there are some telltale signs regarding why people act the way they do. This notion fits perfectly with my “type A” personality. I like when there are reasonably clear explanations for corresponding behaviors. Almost as if human nature and it’s subsequent reactions would come together like a puzzle. I suppose that sounds a bit sterile from someone that wants to work as a counselor, but in my mind, life makes more sense if there are specific reasons behind problems.

 

In a class about war stories, soldier experiences, and the aftermath of war, of course my views on human nature surfaced. I had a particularly hard time relating to soldiers. I didn’t want to pretend I could understand their grief, or why they accidentally choked their wives in their sleep. While I understand post traumatic stress disorder on a basic level, that kind of empathy was well beyond my scope of comprehension. I also did not want to sound ignorant by faking an understanding of these veterans’ troubles.

 

To address this point of contention, we did an exercise in class where we wrote about the scariest day of our lives. Remember, I’m into psychoanalysis, so the purpose of this exercise was not lost on me: we were supposed to relate our scariest experience to that of the soldiers’ we were reading about. As I’m thinking and writing about the scariest day of my life, I realize, I don’t understand it either.

 

For reference: The scariest day of my life was when I was driving in the fast lane of a three lane highway, and as I came up over a hill I saw another car was driving head on toward me. There was a divider to my left and two other lanes full of cars to my right. After staring dumbfounded for a second, I jerked the wheel and fishtailed all over the highway. My car completed three zigzags before only tapping the median and straightening out. As I regained control of the car, I looked into my review mirror at the growing pile-up of cars the rogue driver caused. It was a close call.

 

Remembering this scary experience, I am not scared. I drive almost every day, and I’m fine doing so. But to be honest, I don’t understand that moment at all. I mean it was crazy! I accepted it was insane, and that was the extent of my “understanding” of it. It was not until I analyzed my experience alongside those of the veterans’ that I came to understand war stories in that way. Maybe the soldiers don’t understand their traumatic experiences either. Maybe they accept them as absurd, and that’s just it.

 

In psychology and counseling, acknowledging past struggles is encouraged.This is where my relatively clean-cut cause and reaction theory usually thrives. But I now understand that some instances simply can’t be understood. Maybe you take nothing away from it, except that you’re glad you survived, or that you have a cool story to tell. And that is perfectly okay. Not everything has to have an explanation. Acknowledging that you can’t understand something can be enough.

 


NICOLE MOLINO is a behavioral health counseling major at Drexel University. She was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories class.

 


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DEAR MOM- Justin D. Monroe

 

Dear Mom,

 

You would never think when taking a War Stories class how much insight you can get. I’d like to share my experience with you, given that Poppy was a marine. We also got to hear the battle-hardened stories he had.

 

When first entering this class I expected it to be a traditional focus on American Wars, and individual perspective within a battle. However, it couldn’t have been further from that. We learned about how war affects all people within a family and how the emotional trauma can sometimes surpass any physical trauma.

 

Some of our first books/movies included Black Hawk Down and Alive Day.These were media depictions I was expecting the whole class to be like. Brutal battle scenes, complicated situations, and injured men. However, there was a hint into where the true direction of the class was going. In Black Hawk Down you start to see the perspective come through. You see in the eyes of the enemy and get a glimpse that maybe the United States isn’t always in the right and that there is two sides to every story. Black Hawk Down was also action packed which I really enjoyed.

 

However, the next book The Things They Carried, gave a much broader perspective. As the man who was in Vietnam retells his tale of the past in thepresent. I enjoyed how this book explains what it is like to live with what you have done in war. How sometimes you grapple with things you cannot explain and things you did not want to do. This book is particularly striking because it’s the first one to show emphasize on the home front.

 

The Long Road Home was maybe my favorite book. Just because of the blend of action, emotional stress, and home front perspective. A few sections of this book were enough to make my cry. These men are on a peace-keeping mission gone badly. A 360-degree war and non-stop fighting. It’s a powerful book as it even explains the network the wives use in order to keep up to date and try to support one another. Chapter 23 (I believe), is one of the roughest chapters anyone can read because it goes to all the wives who had their husbands killed. It’s like a nightmare version of the scene in Saving Private Ryan when they go to the mother and tell her 3 out of her 4 children are dead. This book finally made it click to me that this class was not about only the glory moments.

 

The final book and maybe the most profound, was Thank You for Your Service. This book focuses almost entirely on PTSD. Which is a growing problem with these new wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many people do not realize how traumatic these wars can be for those involved because of its unpredictable and unavoidable consequences. I found this book to be hard to stomach as men come back from service and can’t function like they did before. They are too beat up from the war. It goes through the shoes of a few people and you start to wonder, will they ever be ok? Will their families ever be ok? Is this a good environment for a child? It is the most eye opening book of them all in my opinion and made for a very deep conclusion to the course. Our instructor did an amazing job of allowing everyone to share their opinions and had a miraculous ability to talk about touchy topics without offending others.

 

I hope one day you could read some of these excerpts as you may gain some valuable perspective into the full circle effects of war. Some people think that it is a hero’s life to come back from war. However, that’s simply not always the case.

 

With Love,
Justin

 


 

JUSTIN D. MONROE is a Finance major at Drexel University. He was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories class.

 


 

DEAR SCOTT: THE THERAPIST THAT DISAPPEARED- Krystyna Redmond

 

We were making great strides, I thought, trying to understand why my brain reacted certain ways to situations. Why there were so many ups and downs in my life that seemed to have no purpose but still dragged me through the dirt emotionally each time. I’ll admit, when I was finally comfortable talking to a stranger about my past and my family that’s when you disappeared from the practice. And that hurt, that left me even more confused than before.

 

I’m writing to let you know that I’m okay without your guidance. In fact, I have been able to shine my own light on my life and its various struggles. I no longer see myself as a victim of the world, and I have the ability to accept that sometimes things just happen to people and not everyone is going to react the same way.

 

It might not have been the best topic in relation to those things we talked about, but I took a class on war stories. As you can imagine, they were filled with violence and horrible scenes that I initially reacted to in two different ways: A. they were very hard for me to swallow and made me have flashbacks, or B. I ignored them and pretended they weren’t reality. As I have always done. At the end of ten weeks, however, I am able to confidently walk away from this course with an option C.

 

A recurring theme in the various films and stories we read was how peoplereacted and dealt with the trauma and negativity that was both inevitable and out of their hands. Fight or flight were the only options. If you remember my homelessness as a teenager and the things that led me to that point, or the things I went through when I was homeless and where I am now, you know that I am all too familiar with fight or flight. Though I was never shot at, I was attacked; though I never had a helicopter destroy the roof of my home, I did have a third party beat me out the door; and while my entire economic system was never burned to the ground, I did have many nights with no food because someone decided I had to pay for it in ways I didn’t want to.

 

The people and their stories from this class showed me that there are many options to deal with trauma, and there are many levels of trauma. There is no perfect way to deal with the horrible things in the world, and to think there is something wrong with you because you don’t react the same way as Joe Shmoe is like shooting yourself in the foot and blaming it on the one guy whose gun didn’t work and was able to walk away. My option C is to have an open mind when evaluating trauma. My mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, friends, and foes may have their own opinions on how to handle a situation and that’s okay. Because at the end of the day only you have access to your own perspective, just as the many soldiers did. If one person is able to keep their calm in active battle and another is not, that is okay.

 

Thank you for the time you gave me, and I hope you’re doing well wherever you are. Perhaps next time before you disappear from a patient you could read some of these stories. I think you’d recognize the value in multiple perspectives.

 


 

KRYSTYNA REDMOND majored in International Area Studies at Drexel University. She was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories class.

 


 

WASHINGTON DC TRIP 2015- AN EXCERPT- Nicole Baldassarre and Dominick Arp

Nicole:

Being completely honest, I almost walked right past the Vietnam War Memorial. Dom literally had to tell me that that was the Vietnam Memorial or else I would have had no idea. I was expecting the wall to be much larger so that it would really stand out against the landscape and have a presence that would be recognizable from afar. However, once we walked “inside” the wall, my opinion completely changed. It was as if there was some kind of gravitational force that pulled me through the length of the memorial. I definitely felt touched while observing the memorial in its entirety from the thousands of names depicted on the wall, to the deafening silence of those paying their respects, to seeing my own reflection in each of the panels on the wall. I think that seeing my reflection in the wall was the aspect of this experience that really drew up some emotions. Dom and I were able to listen in on a group’s tour and learn more about the construction of the wall as well as its purpose from a veteran who was a volunteer tour guide at the memorial. The whole “open wound” concept of how the memorial was designed made perfect sense to me as I walked through it. I felt like I had been wounded, myself, once I came out! We saw people taking pictures of specific names, running their fingers across the wall, and telling stories to their loved ones. From what I gathered, it looked like a father was telling his toddler son about his grandfather whose name was listed on the wall. He even took his son’s index finger and ran it across the length of that specific name. That sentimental, tender moment has stayed with me to this day.

 

Overall, I do not feel as though visiting the Vietnam War memorial was “lifechanging,” in any sense. Admittedly, I probably hyped myself up more than I should have beforehand. But, I do think that it was a great experience for me to walk through this memorial and beneficial to hear more about its history and meaning from the veteran who was giving a tour to a group nearby. It was interesting to hear that over the years they had found more and more remains of those listed on the wall, changing the plus sign by his name to a diamond (plus sign representing missing remains, diamond symbolizing remains that were found).

 

Dom:

Having visited the Vietnam Memorial several times before this the first thing that really struck me upon entering this time was how much it neverchanges. It doesn’t matter what day I seem to visit, or who else seems to be there, the wall is always fixed in its place. It is a weird custom distinctly different from the other monuments at the National Mall. There is a trail of guilt and sorrow in the air as you walk down the length of the wound. I find that the more I learn about the memorial the harder for me to go back it becomes. When I was little it was another stone on the checklist around the reflecting pool, but now as a young adult it’s another scar on our nation’s past.

 

One new experience though was learning how to interpret the wall. It is not as linear as I had previously assumed. You actually start reading names in the middle of the wall. The middle represents the start of the war. As you go down the right side you increase in the timeline of the war but you have to understand that this time period is very skewed. The first couple panels represent several years at a time, but as the wall juts further right the time represented gets shorter and shorter. What use to be one slab for three years is now a week with just as many names on it. The wall then picks up on the same day on the left hand side and wraps back in on itself to meet the names of the first to fall. Its angles are set to point at the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. It is below ground level to really symbolize the dividing of Earth.

 

As Nicole talked about above, we got to see some really touching moments between a father and his son. I took a moment during this to reflect on a thought I had during class that week. I thought about the purpose of a memorial. I think it is more than a commemorative statue in most cases. I believe that it is meant to serve almost as a way for soldiers who fought these battles to honor their fellow soldiers or to find some level of closure on a difficult time in their lives. Seeing this little boy and his father helped me to answer the question though of who this moment is for after these soldier’s die. They help the families to understand the weight of their family member’s sacrifice and effort. The new question though
becomes, who is the monument for after the family of the soldier dies?

 

I found this to be an interesting point. Having always had a basic vocabulary, I never really connected it to how it influences what I think about. This was an important realization for Asante to make, and none of it would have happened if he didn’t go to this alternative school. He could have very easily ended up in trouble like his friends, dead, or in jail, had he continued along his previous path. It’s amazing how important institutions are to both individuals and society as a whole.

 


 

DOMINICK ARP is a marketing major at Drexel University. He was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories class.

NICOLE BALDASSARRE is a marketing major at Drexel University. She was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories.

English 360: War Stories