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Support veterans: Read “The Things They Carried”

Tim O’Brien, the author of “The Things They Carried,” is going to speak at WCSU at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 26, as part of “One Book, One Community,” the project to bring people together through books.

Many other “One Book” events are taking place throughout the month. You can see them here.

What “The Things They Carried” does is give some insight to the experience of military people, both in war and when they return home. The book’s most disturbing parts are not the scenes of battle, which are horrific, but rather the times when characters remember and retell their experiences. Battle has set them apart. They have trouble comprehending their situations, and the family and friends they return to have no idea.

When you read the book, you will gain a better understanding.

At the kickoff press conference for “One Book,” Brian Bielefeldt, a WCSU student and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan spoke, explaining why he would like as many people as possible to read “The Things They Carried.” Here is what he said:

I am an art major, a graphic designer and a computer science minor.

But, I am not a “traditional” college student. I enlisted in the Army as an airborne infantryman and now I am a veteran, with experiences that range from a combat parachute assault into northern Iraq to over 15,000 miles driven in Afghanistan in some of the most treacherous terrain I’ve ever seen.

When I was asked to speak today I wasn’t sure if I was going to accept. After reading “The Things They Carried,” I realized the underlying significance of this book to our community. With so many young people such as myself coming home and having to live with the experience of war, I feel our communities are ill-equipped to assist in the transition for those returning. Out of a platoon of 30 soldiers I have had two friends commit suicide due to the lack of support from our V.A. and their communities.

Sgt. Colman Bean, and Spc. Jake Swanson.

That’s very difficult for me to say out loud but it is reality.

Our community will benefit greatly by exposing itself to a small part of a thought process experienced by many veterans of today’s generation. Not that they would “know” but more in the realm of recognizing the sensitivity of those returning.

If you were to approach any veteran and ask them if they needed help or someone to talk to, the majority would probably refuse or even be offended. That may be due to their independence but more than likely it has to do with the stigma surrounding mental and physical health in the military.

I feel this community read may not only help those who are not veterans but also those who are, simply by creating a commonality, a talking point or even a silent understanding.

And to quote a chapter from the book, “Speaking of Courage,” page 149, second paragraph:

“He lived with his parents, who supported him, and who treated him with kindness and obvious love. At one point he had enrolled in the junior college in his home town, but the course work, he said, seemed too abstract, too distant, with nothing real or tangible at stake, certainly not the stakes of war.”

Follow Western Connecticut State University at View information about the services for veterans at WCSU here.

Paul Steinmetz

15 Responses

  1. Kendra Baker says:

    I deeply respect the point that Bielefeldt has made. Although I have never been the shoes of a soldier or anyone that’s experienced anything like war, I do feel more of a connection to those who have after reading “The Things They Carried.” I completely agree with Steinmetz when he said, “The book’s most disturbing parts are not the scenes of battle, which are horrific, but rather the times when characters remember and retell their experiences,” because that’s exactly what I realized after reading the book.

    “The Things They Carried” has been my favorite book of all time ever since I had to read it 2-3 years ago in high school. I’ve talked to many people who dislike the novel because not everything that’s written is 100% true, but I believe that O’Brien’s story-truths truly do convey the REAL messages and feelings of the book’s characters (or people that the characters represent). Like Bielefeldt pointed out with an excerpt from the novel, many of us who have not experienced war find things like schoolwork to be no big deal, but when someone goes through something traumatic like war, something like course work can be perceived so dramatically different from the way the rest of us perceive it.

  2. Olivia Hornberger says:

    Discussing Tim O’brien’s book is very necessary especially with the way the world is today, with many soldiers coming home from the Middle East. Post dramatic stress disorder is reality and a lot of people experience it. I’m glad that our community has chosen to demonstrate the reality of war to open people’s aways as to what veterans and people still in the military experience.

  3. Carly Prendergast says:

    I read Tim O’brien’s “The Things They Carried” and loved it. It was so interesting and very emotional. I encourage people to pick it up and read it to learn more about the war and understand how men in combat actually feel and go through. I wrote an essay for the Tim O’brien essay contest and the idea of the book was easily put into my essay about a certain challenge. The book was very well written and definitely kept me reading.

  4. Kareena D. McCalla says:

    “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, this year’s “One Book, One Community’ novel fosters an awareness for helping aid in returning veterans into civilian life. Veterans returning into civilian life can be both a physical and psychological challenge i.e. having independent health care for the veterans and their families. They need our support, not our alienation.

    I would have been guilty to believe that veterans are all too fine when they return from deployment, but after reading “The Things They Carried”, my awareness for the lack of support has grown. I hope this event will foster a stronger appreciation and awareness around of community for added support to our veterans.

  5. Laura Frattaroli says:

    It is interesting to hear from the point of veiw of someone who has been in the same position as the people in Tim O’Briens book The Things They Carried. Reading a book about war is one thing, but to hear someone speak about it makes it much more real, and much easier to connect to. I’m not saying that The Things They Carried was not meaningful or does not have an effect on the reader, just that hearing it from a WCSU student that has experianced those same things makes it seem much more real.

  6. Nick LaDelfa says:

    As a student veteran attending WestConn i was thrilled to find out that WestConn and the community of Danbury chose Tim O’Brien’s, “The Things They Carried.” I find as though it gives a lot of insight and a first hand experience of not only war but about life in general. I had read The Things They Carried when i was in high school but after serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom for a 15 month deployment I found that it hit closer to home the second time around. O’Brien’s dialog in the book was right on, especially the parts where he and his friends would crack jokes on each other. I know Brian Bielefeldt, as we are both active members in WestConn’s Student Veteran Organization and have on a few instances have shared our stories and thoughts on not only our combat experiences but the difficulties of returning back to “civilian” life. While the Veterans Affairs have moved in a new direction expanding programs for veterans, like Brian said the V.A. is simply not doing enough or is not very affective.

  7. Joe C. says:

    I myself have never been in the armed forces, but i have some of my best friends and family members who have served and perished in wars. I think it would be very nice and thoughtful if as many of as possible can make it to hear Tim Obrien speak for a couple of reasons. First, the book is outstanding I had to read it in high school and have read it 3 or 4 times since then. Also its is nice to pay homage to a famous veteran, and all veterans that have fought for our freedom.

  8. Nicole H says:

    After hearing Brian’s story, I now also feel as though this community needs to support the soldiers coming home. The fact that his friends killed himself over it is a serious issue. I was never aware of the lack of support from the community. I feel as though choosing a book such as “The Things They Carried” was an excellent choice for “One Book, One Community”. The community needs to come together as one on this issue and support their soldiers. I am looking forward to when Tim O’ Brian speaks on the 26th. I would love to hear his personal opinion on the matter.

  9. Rachael says:

    The event would be a good one for others to attend, students and non-students. The book brings awareness to the community, helping people understand what veterans have gone through. We don’t have an understanding until we actually try, and this book and lecture give this.The programs helps everyone come together by reading one book, but brings them together by reading one issue.

  10. Marissa Feigen says:

    I feel that this year an excellent choice was made in choosing “The Things They Carried” as the One Book, One Community read. I went to the veteran panel discussion and had my entire perspective altered by hearing the emotional stories of veterans from various wars. It made me more aware to the fact that there may be soldiers in the classroom with me and that sensitivity must be shown. Veterans often come home to feel isolated from society with a loss of connection to what they once thought of as home. Student soldiers can feel irritated by other students open returning to school and feel that what other students perceive to be as serious problems are trivial. By reading Tim O’Brien’s book, students and professors can become more aware and accommodating of veterans.

  11. connor james says:

    This book sounds very interesting, I agree that this will indeed help many people understand how and why veterans are feeling the way they are. Many people do not understand the true sacrifices that many veterans have made for their country. They should be respected and honored in a patriotic way.

  12. Amanda Wilson says:

    The book “The Things They Carried” was a great book for “One Book, One Community” this year and I think it’s great that the author is coming to talk about it. There are many war veterans, even in our own school that should feel like they have someone who can relate to their experience. Also, it’s great for students who weren’t involved in any war to understand what veterans had gone through.

  13. Neil Suto says:

    I can see why veterans most often would not want to accept help. It would be helpful if our country had a mandatory program that gave guidance to soldiers who have returned from war as a precautionary measure.

  14. Heather says:

    Currently at Western Connecticut I have three classes that have based an assignment around the book “The Things they carried”. I am not quiet finish with the book but have to agree with the veterans statement that having the whole community read this book will make a difference in the atmosphere. I believe that just having the University read the book will make a difference and help people realize that there are veterans all around then at all times.

  15. Bardellio's says:

    Our community definitely needs to have a strong wake up call about the reality of war. I feel as though living in the northeast where enrollment to the army is low, we don’t see any of these sobering realities and hopefully the “One book, One Community” events will help bring the Greater Danbury Area to this understanding.

    I will be attending these events and hopefully building a greater comprehension of our soldiers thought process.