Vietnam. Iraq. Different generations. Different wars. But the experiences of the soldiers who fought in them are all too similar.
Robin Perry had always wondered why his Uncle Richie wouldn't talk much about the Vietnam War and his time "in country." He found out while he was "in country," too. It's another generation. It's another war. It's death and dying. It's body parts blown off. It's the deaths of innocent civilians, men, women, children. It's suicide bombers and car bombs, and never knowing when one could explode. It's friendships that help make you and your buddies into a team, jokes shared with dark humor, and news from home. It's growing up too fast, with the cold, hard knowledge deep down in your gut, that tomorrow, it may be your turn to die. And if you're lucky, it's also going home to a world that has no way of knowing what you have survived, in spite of TV newscasts and newspaper headlines. Knowing you can't ever really explain it.
In the beginning, Robin didn't really think there'd be a war. And if there was, he was in Civil Affairs, not in a combat unit. They were the good guys. Nobody was going to shoot at them. But when they left Kuwait and crossed the border into Iraq, with the body bags lined up neatly along the side of the road, just waiting, Robin suddenly realized that he could end up in one, and so could the men and women he talked and joked with, ate and watched TV with every day.
But the first casualties Robin heard about weren't from his own unit, they were from the 507th, and the three women who were captured could be the same three Robin's squad was joking with in the gasoline line only days before. The war was real. The body bags were real. And the bullets, and the danger, and the fear. It was all real. All too terribly, horrifyingly real.
There's nothing glamorous or exciting about war, no matter where your "in country" is, and it didn't take Robin long to understand why his uncle hadn't wanted to talk much about it. Robin didn't want to either.
This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart.