A Soldier’s Narrative About the Vietnam War
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In the narrative told by Specialist Haywood T. Kirkland, one understands that after experiencing traumatic events, relationships with society and others can be permanently affected. To begin, Kirkland goes into detail about certain experiences as a civilian up until the day he was drafted, experiences he claims that “freaked him out,” however, didn’t scare him yet (92). He only experiences signs of emotional distress when he’s put into situations where he has little control or inescapably—no way out. He explains that “the most fearful moment was when we got [dropped] into the wrong area, right on the perimeter of an NVA camp” (92). Kirkland continues to explain that he began to understand the emotion of fear because of the “anticipation of something happening as opposed to being in the heat of the battle” (92).
There were other experiences that would eventually alter his emotional and intellectual stability. There were periods Kirkland felt he couldn’t trust his warrior companions due to some of them taking matters into their own hands—by committing rapes and unapproved killings. He says: “They told me the [Vietnamese Cong] jumped out… I didn’t believe it… [They] were lying to me… I didn’t see him pushed but he was gone… And I couldn’t deal with it” (94). Kirkland mentions a white lieutenant he remembers “[being] out in the field a week and already was [doing] things that could get you killed” (95). He further emphasizes that he dreads being in the company of a ruthless man named Studs Armstrong. Armstrong, among a plethora of others, did what they wanted to in the field. Armstrong collected ears and a head he severed off a corpse and vainly protests that “This is my war [and] I do what I want” (96).
As a final point, Kirkland discloses that Streeter, his closest and brave friend, loses himself during an ambush. He discovers that “any person can go at any moment” and he admits that “it really did something to me” (98). By the time Kirkland is acknowledged as a war hero, he realizes that his patriotism is in vain. He faces intellectual challenges within himself and society. Kirkland, alike all the other black men were labeled “troublemakers” and sent to the fields (99). Meanwhile, jobs like supply clerk or cook were given to the white men. Kirkland states that “I felt used” and “Vietnam was doing nothing for black people” (101). Since enlisting as “The Kid,” Kirkland was left only with a revolutionary and militant conviction.