An Israeli female soldier fell apart to her traumatic death incident of her comrade on Monday, November 23, 2015. In the West bank in Nabulus city at a petrol station, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli soldier in the stomach. To her, it seemed as if her whole world was deteriorating. However, to another soldier reporting that it was a horrible misfortune, but it was common that many Israelis had been getting killed recently, showed that it was easier for him to deal with this heartbreak unlike the female soldier (Evans).
For some people, such a loss might be one of the hardest challenges to endure and might let their grief disrupt their daily activities; there might be other people who are resilient and able to overcome it quicker. Coping with such a tragedy, which in this case is a death of a comrade, is inevitable because everyone has different ways of recovering from his or her own grief whether it may be through acts of violence, writing the frustrations out, communication, or humor.
The American Psychological Association states various strategies for one to handle a loss: talking about the death to people, accepting the emotions that come with the loss, making sure to supporting oneself and others, and appreciating the people in one’s life. Finally accepting such a loss usually follows after going through the five developing stages of grief, which is denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (American Psychological Association). Each comrade has altered reactions to the death of a comrade.
When Curt Lemon died while playing catch with a smoke grenade with Rat Kiley, Kiley had a difficult time accepting that his friend died. According to the stages of grief, he was angry and blamed himself for what had happened. He was unable to move on from it and transferred his feelings of anger by shooting an innocent baby buffalo. Without a good support group, it would be an extremely arduous challenge to overcome because all the frustrating emotions would be cooped up inside oneself.
This would explain why it might have been harder for Kiley cope with the death of his comrade because he did not really have that. Following Lemon’s death, he wrote a personal letter to Lemon’s sister who never even wrote back. Since he did not have anyone to talk out his situation with made it harder for Kiley to move on. The way Kiley was able to cope with this devastation was transferring all of his anger through the use of violence. Moreover, violence serves as another coping mechanism when Ted Lavender was the first to die outside Than Khe.
As soon as that incident occurred, the soldiers were forced to deal with the death. The way they handled the situation was through the acted of violence by burning and shooting everything in Than Khe and marching in the afternoon. Just like Kiley feeling responsible for Lemon’s death, O’Brien felt a burden on Lavender’s death as well because he was so focused about his love for Martha and less focused on protecting the soldiers. It shows how much burden each soldier has to overcome, especially since they feel guilty about a situation they think could have been deemed preventable.
Although violence was not the best method to deal with the death of their comrade, it was crucial in order for the soldiers to get past this horrific moment. It is natural for each significant death of a comrade to be affect a soldier by placing blame on himself for the whole situation believing that it could have been preventable. Feeling guilt is not necessarily a bad feeling; however, it is a common symptom that one might face because he or she might feel responsible for the death. In order for one to manage the loss, one might express how one feels through writing.
Rat Kiley felt a heavy weight on himself after his close comrade, Ted Lavender, died. He felt a strong sense of guilt and in order to overcome it, he wrote a heartfelt letter to Lemon’s sister. By doing this, he transferred all of his pain and guilt on pieces of paper as a way to let go of it. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross also uses this type of mechanism as soon as Kiowa died. After Kiowa died, Cross felt that it was his responsibility for what happened to Kiowa because he commanded the men to camp at a dangerous site. More than that, he felt that as a commander, he led his men in a way that was to him considered a “mistake”.
A way to keep moving forward is by accepting the situation and the feelings that come with it. The only way that would help him get over his heavy feelings of remorse, he expressed it on paper by “composing a letter in his head to the kid’s father, not mentioning the shit field, just saying what a fine soldier Kiowa had been, what a fine human being, and how he was the kind of son that any father could be proud of forever,” (O’Brien, 157). Doing this only helped Cross to accept the blame and keep moving on with the war.
Lastly, O’Brien writing this book about the war was an evident coping mechanism to what happened at the war and the number of deaths he encountered. All these traumatic developments that O’Brien faced during the war were incidents that O’Brien would have to move past in order to continue on with his life. He was forced to find ways to overcome all the deaths of the relationships whether he was close to one who died or not especially because he did not want to go to war in the first place. It is evident that the best strategy for O’Brien to cope with these challenges was through writing and being expressive.
More than writing it for the readers for the sake of writing a story, O’Brien writes this book as a tool for himself to freely express the things that happened in the war. Writing is a mechanism that may not work for everyone, but for some, it is a way to help people let out their truest thoughts and find freedom through these events. Even though some soldiers might believe that it was their responsibility for the death of the comrades, there are others who are able to accept the death faster because they realized that some situations could not have been preventable. When Kiowa died, O’Brien adjusted to the realities that occurred.
He believed that one could blame anything to the deaths, but in the end, that does not change the fact that one’s comrade died. O’Brien’s interaction with the unnamed soldier who strongly believed that it was his fault for Kiowa’s death showed O’Brien’s method of dealing with the death. He was able to realize that there was no point in pointing fingers because what happened happened for a reason. Contrary to this, Norman Bowker represents men who are affected negatively by the aftermaths of war. People who are not able to accept their grief and move past it might go as far as committing suicide to avoid the all of the pain.
Instead of focusing on the positive memories that lasted while Kiowa was alive, he was more focused on his guilt. He let that guiltiness raid his entire life and found it useless and less meaningful after the war had ended. He took his method of coping his grief to extreme heights by hanging himself. Another possibility that other people are able to recover faster from a death is because it depends on the type of relationship one had with the person. With Kiley, even though not having people to talk to factors into how fast one would cope with the death, he did have a closer bond with Rat Kiley opposed to the rest of the soldiers.
After all, Curt Lemon and Rat Kiley “were like soul mates, he says, like twins or something,” (O’Brien, 65). For O’Brien, however, it was easier for him to cope with it because he did not know him that well. O’Brien told the story about the death of Curt Lemon as a love story and portrayed it as beautiful. Describing Lemon’s death, O’Brien wrote, “sharp gray eyes, lean and narrow-waisted, and when he died it was almost beautiful, the way the sunlight came around him and lifted him up and sucked him high into a tree full of moss and vines and white blossoms,” (O’Brien 67).
Instead of portraying this scene as ghastly as it should have been, he writes it in a pleasant manner. Unlike Kiley, O’Brien is able to write in this fashion because his relationship with Lemon compared with Kiley’s relationship with Lemon was not as closely bonded. Making jokes was also a coping mechanism to deal with the death of the comrades. Instead of grieving about Ted Lavender’s death, the soldiers found ways to overcome that by telling jokes about Lavender while smoking his dope.
This was a positive strategy for the soldiers to ride out the feelings of grief by talking to each other. Even though this form of mechanism may seem shallow and disrespectful, it was necessary for the soldiers to move on with the war because death was something that the soldiers would have to get used to. Moreover, Kiowa’s death greatly affected the soldiers in different aspects. To accept his grief, Azar made jokes, irony, and sarcasm about Kiowa’s death and is eventually forced to stop. Although this action seemed wrong at the time, it was a way for Azar to move on.
Some soldiers such as Kiowa and Norman Bowker told Azar to stop joking around, but other soldiers partake in this mechanism through humor as well. As Tim and Jensen were throwing away pieces of Curt Lemon, Dave Jensen started to sing the song “Lemon Tree,” as his way to make himself feel better about his emotions. This act of telling jokes helps one to reduce the amount of pain one feels and makes it easier for one to handle. Everyone has different coping strategies with death. If the soldiers did not attempt to adjust to their changing lives, they would struggle to survive and move on.
Especially because they are in a war, soldiers are exposed and expected deal with the countless numbers of death on a regular basis. Each have the responsibility to move on from the number of deaths in order to proceed with the war. They are forced to find strategies and to put aside their feelings to accept the realities of war. The things the soldiers carried were more than pure physical items they kept close to them. They carried huge burdens on every death that they faced and were required to overcome in any mechanism that would work best for them to carry on with their lives.