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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Vietnam veteran shares realities of war

 
 

When the award-winning author of novels such as The Things They Carried spoke on campus, he wanted students to understand that war is much more than the patriotic acts depicted in movies.
Author Tim OBrien spoke Tuesday to a full house at the Melbern G. Glasscock Center about his experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War and how his years in combat affected his life.
OBriens appearance was part of the Glasscock Centers notable lectures program. Richard Golsan, director of the Glasscock Center, said OBriens reputation made his visit particularly noteworthy.
Hes the most distinguished American writer of the Vietnam era and one of the greatest writers of the 21st century, Golsan said.
OBrien read excerpts of his semi-autobiographical novel The Things They Carried to the audience.
My hope with the story is to touch on what war really is, OBrien said. War is one guy saying to another guy or one country saying to another country, Im so right and youre so wrong, Im going to kill you War is day-by-day, second-by-second nastiness.
Donna Malak, communications specialist for the Glasscock Center, said bringing in scholars for lecture events introduces students to broad topics of intellectual nature and promotes scholarship.
[Students can learn] about U.S. history, war and society and personal accounts from the Vietnam era, Malak said. They get different ways of looking at events like this by hearing personal experiences.
Siddiq Hasan, a junior university studies major, could relate to certain aspects of OBriens story because of his own experience in the military. He said OBriens genuine and emotional stories could provide insight for those who will never experience war first-hand.
Its important for some [veterans to share their story] so that future generations can at least have some perspective on what it was like, Hasan said. You kind of learn about yourself from someone elses experiences.
Hasan served in the Army in three tours between 2005 and 2011 in Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan and plans to return to the service after graduating.
[OBrien] was saying its not that [veterans] dont want to tell you stories, theyre just afraid to offend you. And that makes sense [to me], Hasan said. There are stories that my buddies wont tell anybody else unless youve been there because it makes other people uncomfortable.
Through his book, OBrien said he wants his readers to apply what he has learned to their everyday lives.
When you read, I hope you can transfer from the book to current circumstancesright now or what may come up in the future, OBrien said. Just ask yourself common sense questions and make your own mind up about it.
OBrien said Vietnam can remind readers and the country that truth is not as absolute as society makes it seem and a persons ideas about what is true are subject to transformation.
Truth is a fluid thing, OBrien said. It changes, and the book is supposed to challenge you on that. Truth has different levels of applicability in the world. Your sense about what is true about yourself is going to evolve through time.
OBrien said receiving letters and positive feedback about how his books have impacted lives makes everything he has gone through worth it.
The most important thing to me is knowing that hearts have been touched, OBrien said. Its not about money or fame or anything its about reaching into hearts.

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