In the story, Tim O’Brien narrates some important challenges faced by the soldiers of the Alpha Company. From the story, it is evident that each member of the team faces distinct challenges and also has unique ways and means to overcome the challenges. In fact, O’Brien acknowledges this by indicating that the soldiers carry things that are primarily determined by necessity while on a mission or war. The story highlights the challenges soldiers face when at war due to personal issue and emotional burden.
According to O’Brien, men of the company carried various items that include marijuana, the mosquito repellent, chewing gums and pocket knives among others. Also, the narrator remarked that “what they carried varied by mission” (Page 8). The implication of the statement is that all the items that the members of the company carry are essential for their work and other engagements but all depends on the intended mission. Again, it is seen that the men of the company carry different items that specifically meets individual needs.
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Although people bring distinct things, other items are universal and carried by everybody. Some of the universal things mentioned in the story include compress which is used in case of fatal injuries and the poncho which can be used as a tent or groundsheet and raincoat. Interestingly, it is indicated that the things that men carry depend on the specialty or rank of the individuals. For instance, O’Brien noted that Lieutenant Jimmy Cross often carries Compasses, maps and the responsibilities of the lives of men since he has a rank in the company.
It can be argued that O’Brien uses the examples of the physical objects that the team members of the company carry to show the emotional suffering experienced by the soldiers when they are away on a mission. Besides, each member has a unique need, and thus the physical elements carried by them provide the insight of the emotional burden experienced by a person. From the story, some soldiers believed in divine intervention for the mission to be successful. For instance, “Kiowa always took along his New Testament and a pair of moccasins for silence” (Page 9). Others believed that they needed nutrient supplements that would enable them have good vision especially at night for the mission. For instance, “Dave Jansen carried night-slight vitamins high in carotene” (Page 9). In addition, some could carry items belonging to their spouses just to comfort themselves during the mission. For example, “Dobbins carried his girl friend’s pantyhose wrapped around his neck as a comforter” (Page 9).
In the story, O’Brien reveals that Lieutenant Cross experiences the emotional burden caused by his lover Martha. “It was phantom jealousy, he knew, but he could not help himself. He loved her so much” (Page 8). “He imagined who could have been with her this afternoon” (Page 8). Cross was so carried away by the memories of Martha to the extent that he failed to perform his duties as required. The death of Lavender is a revelation that the soldiers failed to attend to their responsibilities at the expense of the personal issues that they experienced. In fact, after the death of Lavender, Cross realized that he did not perform his duties as required and this might have contributed to the death of Lavender. It can be argued that he failed to fulfill his job obligation by attending to the lives of the soldiers since he focused on personal issues concerning Martha.
After the death of Martha, reality started to down on soldiers regarding their responsibilities while on a mission. Cross realized that he has been carried with misplaced priority and as such failed to perform his duty at the company. It is at this time that he decided to do away with the letters of Martha and began to concentrate on his job in the company.
O’Brien provides some of the challenges that soldiers, especially young soldiers, face when they are away for a given mission. The soldiers are often occupied with personal issues to the extent that they fail to focus on the mission. As a result, they are often subjected to unnecessary suffering at the hands of the enemies. The collection of the physical objects at the disposal of the soldiers reflects the different personal issues and emotional burdens faced by each member of the team. Furthermore, the diversity of the objects shows the unique and varying needs of the soldiers. On the contrary, the common items carried by the soldiers are unifying factors that provide a suggestion of the common mission during the war. Other objects brought differ based on ranks and specialty and this reflects the responsibilities of each soldier in the team. For instance, “on ambush or other night missions, they carried peculiar little odds and ends” (Page 9).