Students talk military draft, Vietnam War in preparation for Moving Wall arrival

'The Things They Carried' provokes discussion about Vietnam War among students
By Lydia Goerner | Jul 26, 2017
Photo by: Lydia Goerner Noah Marriott, 14, of Wareham, writes answers to discussion questions with his group.

Middle and high school students took a break from relaxing summer vacations to focus on the Vietnam War with a book discussion among students from five towns.

"The Things They Carried" by Tim O’Brien, a Vietnam War veteran, was the topic of discussion Wednesday morning. Students from Wareham, Carver, Bourne, Falmouth and Hyannis read the book and had a thoughtful discussion to prepare for the Vietnam Moving Wall coming to Wareham in August.

Stephen McCarthy, a Bourne High School history teacher, said "The Things They Carried" is fiction, although the author was in the Vietnam War. The book is arranged into a series of short stories.

“I can’t think of a better book on the Vietnam War,” McCarthy said. He said around 20 students from Bourne plan to visit the Vietnam Moving Wall when it comes to Wareham.

Students broke into groups and answered discussion questions about the book. They chose words that describe central themes from the book: struggle, fear, war, courage, loss, guilt. They talked about the relationship between the narrator and the story, the role of social class in war and the institution of a military draft.

They also discussed the line from the book, “A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.”

“The author blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction,” said Noah Marriott, 14, of Wareham. Marriott said since every soldier had their own experience, something may be true for one person and false for another.

The book was chosen because of its popularity in schools to teach young people about the Vietnam War, said Wareham Middle School Principal Peter Steedman. It was even used in Brazil when Steedman was a principal there. Steedman said he was impressed with the discussion the book provoked.

“They got into a deeper sense of truth,” Steedman said. “This book is really accessible to them.”

The average age of a soldier in the Vietnam War was 19, Wareham Principal Peter Steedman reminded students, just a few years older than they are.

Several spectators from Wareham also attended to listen in on the discussion.

“I’m just sitting here being so impressed by these young people,” said Eleanor Martin, clerk of Friends of Wareham Veterans. “To see they get it and care about it, it’s amazing. I’m sure it was nothing that they even thought about before.”

Bob White, chairman of the Wareham Veterans Council, encouraged the students to volunteer at the Vietnam Moving Wall replica and continue asking questions.

“Congratulations and thank you all for, in a way, accepting your draft notice,” White said, telling the students their participation in the book discussion was a draft of sorts. “I have said from the beginning that [visiting the Vietnam Moving Wall] is a wake. It’s a somber occasion.”

Up to 20,000 people are anticipated to visit the Vietnam Wall replica when it is in Wareham Aug. 17 to 21. The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Corinne Mayhard of Carver considers a discussion question on The Things They Carried. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
Zachary Yarnall of Bourne, left, talks to Chairman of the Wareham Veterans Council Bob White about the Vietnam Moving Wall. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is a fiction work written by a Vietnam War veteran and published in 1990. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
Josh Kennedy of Carver, right, listens as members of his small group share impressions on the book. (Photo by: Lydia Goerner)
Comments (1)
Posted by: sweetie | Jul 27, 2017 13:52

The Vietnam War was a sad time in our history. Too many Vets were not given the honor, support or respect they deserved. They are heroes.

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