Linda's Reviews > If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home

If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home by Tim O'Brien
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Mar 23, 2011

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bookshelves: war-soldiers
Read in January, 2011 — I own a copy

The stewardess serves a meal and passes out magazines. The plan lans in Japan and takes on fuel. Then you fly straight on to Seattle. What kind of war is it that begins and ends this way, with a pretty girl, cushioned seats and magazines?
You add things up. You lost a friend to the war, and you gained a friend. You compromised one principle and fulfilled another. You learned, as old men tell it in front of the courthouse, that was is not all bad; it may not make a man of you, but it teaches you that man hood is not something to scoff; some stories of valor are true; dead bodies are heavy, and it's better not to touch them; fear is paralysis, but it is better to be afraid than to move out to die, all limbs functioning and heart thumping and charging and having your chest torn open for all the work; you have to pick the times not to be afraid, but when you are afraid, you must hide it to save respect and reputation. You learned that the old men had lives of their own and that they valued them enough top try not to lose them; anyone can die in a war if he tries. 208

Even forgetting the captain, looking at myself and the days I writhed insensible under bullets and the other days when I did okay, somehow shooting back or talking coherently into the radio or simply watching without embarrassment how the fighting went, some of the futility and stupidity disappeared. The idea is manliness, crudely idealized. You liken dead friends to the pure vision of the eternal soldier. You liken living friends to the mass of dusty troops who have swarmed the world forever. And you try to find a hero. 146
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