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Week 11 - Essay Example

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He grew up in a post World War II Chicago suburb. His parents and grandparents were products of the World War II experience, and of the patriotism that drove the war experience at that time. Caputo admits that his…
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Week 11
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1 Philip Caputo was a young man when he joined the Marines. He grew up in a post World War II Chicago suburb. His parents and grandparents were products of the World War II experience, and of the patriotism that drove the war experience at that time. Caputo admits that his own perceptions about war were much a reflection of the “silver screen.” Those images created by Hollywood of a World War II American soldier against the forces of evil; or the American cowboy; or the medieval King Arthur Muskateer. It was not until he actually experienced his first “kill” in Vietnam that Caputo’s romanticism was abated and he began to understood war and killing very differently.
2.) Caputo admits to joining the Marines for two reasons: he was incredibly bored in the suburbs where he had grown up; and he was swept up in the romanticism of John F. Kennedy’s Camelot. Caputo’s basic training experience was, like all Marines, even today, one of character and physical strength building. Creating a sense of camaraderie and loyalty and, most importantly, a willingness to sacrifice one’s own life for the virtues of America (God, Corp, Country). By the time Caputo did his second tour and was reassigned to headquarters, he had already begun to have an “affected” take on the war and the government and society. Once assigned to headquarters, his job was to make sure that there was a “body count.” A count that was fact or fiction in the favor of the American victory and success in Vietnam. Caputo was completely disillusioned.
3.) Caputo had a loyalty to his men, his corp, because that was what had been drilled into him during his basic training experience. Even when his feelings about the military and government began to sour, as a leader in the Marines, Caputo was concerned about the men with whom he was charged to lead; and developed the bonds of men together in a war environment.
4.) Caputo’s experience as an inexperienced young lieutenant was one rooted in fear; fear of losing control, fear of losing a man, fear of losing his own life. He was completely – and admits to it – unprepared for the reality of the environment and the experience of war. It was nothing, he wrote, like the way they rehearsed it in the woods of Virginia or North Carolina. In this way, his experience was somewhat like that of Frederic in A Farewell to Arms.
5.) From Caputo’s book it was possible to gain a sense of what the mood in America was before, during, and after the war – and from a hindsight is 20/20 perspective. Caputo’s reflection on his later years is as much influenced by the post Vietnam mood of the country as it was by the pre and actual experience of the war. Caputo seemed to remain forever changed on many levels, and what he knows for certain is that in the “shit”, the action, all a soldier can do is count on himself and those with whom he serves. They are the only ones that have a shared goal, and that goal is to get out of it alive. It is easy to come away from this book with a sense of the “special interests” of the government, and the military as a separate entity from the government, and, finally, the public as separate from both the government and the military. It is an America divided.
6.) The purpose of this book, I think, was multi-purpose; it was clearly a cathartic experience for the author who needed to return to the before, during and after experience in order to properly align his own “now.” It was to help other Vietnam era veterans relate to a shared experience, and to perhaps find an expression for those experiences that they have not themselves been able to express even after the many years since the war experience. It was a message to “big brother,” that the government has been exposed on many levels as the self-interested and manipulating force that is being driven by people who do not put enough value on the life of others. It is to expose the indoctrination of young and susceptive minds to the military propaganda that leads these young men to destruction in the face of war. The glorifying and damning of warfare and the tension between the pre, during and post perspectives is the coming of age of a young man under the most extreme of circumstances. The tension serves to forefront the sense of control, the surrender of control, the loss of control as the experience of reality takes shape on the man of war in a mental, physical and social way. Read More
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