The Big Read High School Initiative with Francis Lewis High School

– Francis Lewis students, I wanna welcome you to Queensborough Community College I’m very excited about the beginning of the high school Big Read Initiative My name is Michele Cuomo, and we’ll be talking to, (laughing) you’re Michele too? Alright, do you spell it with one L or two? Two, I spell it with one (laughing) (people chattering) We’re gonna be telling you a lot about what’s going on, but first, I wanna introduce to you the president of Queensborough Community College, Dr. Eduardo Marti (audience cheering and applauding) – Thank you, thank you I really appreciate that Generally, at Queensborough Community College, I don’t get that when I first talk to you guys, so it is very nice to have you here, to welcome you to our campus Needless to say, we’re very very excited about this initiative The association between our college and Francis Lewis is very very very important, and you are sort of like the pioneers, you’re the first ones that are starting with this project And frankly, what is gonna happen, is that we’re gonna have you for nine weeks You are now Queensborough Community College college students Huh, yeah So you can go home, and tell your buds that, you know, you’re in college now You were accepted But really, what this is designed to do, is to give you a sense of college life, to use this wonderful book as a guide, to see how different disciplines come together, and to use is this as a, it’s a trial for you, as you go forward to the next phase of your life So we’re very very excited about this I really would like to very much welcome you to our campus For these nine weeks, feel free to be part of our campus And if you will see any of the basketball team women, tell ’em that congratulations, because they are the CUNY champs And if you see anybody from the baseball team, tell ’em good luck We have really a really good school spirit here So welcome to the campus, and good luck with the project, thank you (audience applauding) (people chattering) – I’d next like to introduce you to Ms. Bobby Brauer, who is the director of College Now, the ASAP program, and High School Initiative, at the Queensborough Community College campus (audience applauding) – I don’t know, come on (audience cheering and applauding) Thank you So welcome I know that each of you signed up for something that is unknown, and so I applaud you for taking this giant leap of faith in joining something that is going to be, I promise you, more exciting than you could ever have imagined While you’re here, you are now, as the president said, college students As college students, there’s a certain decorum when you’re on campus that we expect you to follow We trust that you’re going to come to class on time, every week The faculty here have made an enormous input, and put in lots of time and effort to create a very special program for you And I believe that, at the end of this, you’re gonna wanna come back, you’re gonna wanna do more, you’re gonna be telling your parents, your friends, your teachers at Francis Lewis High School, that you can’t even believe what you did here So I’m not gonna take up a lot of time I’m gonna give the microphone back, and I wish you luck I hope to see you during the next nine weeks, and just have a ball (audience applauding) – I’m not gonna talk too much more I really want to introduce you to your faculty, and let them get started on the wonderful curriculum we’ve planned for you But first I wanna let you know a little background I want you to know that you’re part of something beyond Francis Lewis, beyond Queensborough You’re something part, something’s that part of a initiative that is taking place across the whole nation, and internationally, and that is the Big Read

The Big Read is an initiative that is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, to encourage people to return to reading for pleasure So the Big Read, you have a bookmark in your folder, and it shows 30 different books that are being read all across the country So as we read the book, “The Things They Carried”, by Tim O’Brien, people in Texas are reading it, California, people in Egypt are reading it in different formats Some of them are just reading it aloud, and enjoying it Some of them are doing it in college classrooms Some of them are doing it in libraries It’s being done in malls So you’re part of something bigger And we at Queensborough chose “The Things They Carried”, by Tim O’Brien, because we found that we knew our students liked it very much And I’m going to introduce you to your three faculty members The first faculty member I’m going to introduce you to, is Professor Pobric, and she will be the writing instructor for your nine weeks But she’s also the project administrator for the Big Read on our campus, and so she can talk a little bit more about the book, and why it’s exciting, and as well as her curriculum Ms. Pobric (audience cheering and applauding) – Hi everyone I noticed how friendly you all were when I was greeting you upstairs I’m very excited about that Are you really? Well good, because that’s what we need today, and every Wednesday for the next nine weeks actually – [Male] As long as you’ll be here – I will be here as long as you’re here (laughing) My name is Anida Pobric I studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College It’s a small liberal arts school in Westchester, not very far from here Yes, Westchester You’ll realize very soon that I annunciate all of my words, because I will be your writing instructor, and we will be doing a lot of reading and writing together actually, and a lot of math with Dr. Dona Boccio This is, (laughing), we’re gonna have tons of fun I promise – [Male] I hope so – Yes, I hope so to With your cooperation, anything is possible So today, this will sort of serve as an orientation All of you have received a book, and a folder, that I packer personally for each and every one of you, in which you will find a study guide, and a bookmark, and a little calendar of events happening around campus in honor of the Big Read, which I, along with Dean Michele Cuomo, and some other people, planned I wanna first tell you a little bit about the Big Read The Big Read, as Dean Cuomo said, is a grant funded project by the National Endowments for the Arts We received a certain amount of money, and we purchased over 12 hundred books, all “The Things They Carried”, because this is the book that we chose, and we distributed them through organized efforts throughout our campus So you are part of something really enormous, and many many students on this campus are reading the same exact thing you’re reading This book is a, it’s an account, it’s a soldiers account of the Vietnam War, and it is, it really, it challenges the theme of what is fiction, what is non-fiction What do we do when we only have our memory to rely upon? How much can we trust our memory? It challenges the craft of creative writing itself, of story telling And I believe that you will all find something to love here And today, we’re going to be reading the first story called “The Things They Carried” I will be reading along with the other two faculty members, Jim Geasor and Dona Boccio, so that we can share that experience together Because when we separate into our classes, we won’t necessarily be reading the same stories To tell you that all of the stories are, well the book is a compilation of short stories, meaning that all of the short stories can stand on their own The book does not need to be read chronologically in order to be understood, meaning it does not need to be read from beginning to end All the chapters are a short story that was previously, and separately published, and then complied into this body of work I look forward to you guys, I look forward to working with you guys You guys look forward to working with me? – [All] Yes – [Male] Oh yeah – What about the girls?

Are the girls looking forward to working with me? – [Female] Yeah – [Male] Alright – Wonderful, I can’t wait So I will introduce (people chattering) Dr. Dona Boccio, who will be working with you in, in it, in mathematics Okay, give it up for Donna (audience applauding) – Hello everyone I’m just gonna speak very briefly right now I have a brief presentation later on, and I want everyone to realize at the the end of this program, that math can be fun, and math can be relevant, which might not be the way that you thought about math from your previous courses So later on, after we read the first chapter of the book, and show a very short video, then I’ll start talking about a little about what to expect in the math component of the course Jim (audience applauding) (people chattering) – Come on man, I don’t need this do I? (audience applauding) – No – [Male] Yeah – Can you all hear me? – [All] Yeah – Alright, I’ll have good news and bad news – [Male] You the man – What do you want first? – [All] Bad – The bad news, I guess you didn’t watch MSNBC today, huh? Barack Obama’s re-instituting the draft – [Male] Who? – [Male] What? – Ooh (people chattering) Ohh, isn’t that interesting? One of the stories we’re gonna read in the, on this book, “The Things They Carried”, is on the rainy river, and we’re gonna learn what Tim O’Brien went through when he learned he was drafted That’s something you guys should think about We don’t have a draft right now, doesn’t mean we will never have one, right? – [Male] What’s the good news? – The good news, the book is free You don’t have to pay for the book (laughing) (audience cheering and applauding) And the folks working with all of you, I also put together a short video I’m kind of really into technology, music, art, poetry, and creating videos I created a short video, and hopefully you’ll find it entertaining We’ll show it after we’re done reading the first book – That says – Okay? If y’all wanna sit back and enjoy, we’ll have a discussion afterwards, okay? (audience applauding) – [Male] Yeah – I wanna, whoop, I need a mic Do I need, hi Alright, I don’t need the mic – That’s alright – I got the mic here (laughing) I wanna introduce you to three people who are going to be working with you throughout our time together – She sees you – And they are Brooke, where are you Brooke? Hi Brooke (people chattering) Alex – [Male] She got it – [Male] Oh, thank you – And Ava – [Male] Mrs. Ava (audience cheering) – Brooke, Alex, and Ava are all queens We’re very proud of Brooke, Alex, and Ava They are graduates of CUNY, some of them graduates of Queensborough They have come back as tutors in our learning center, and they work with Queensborough students on a regular basis tutoring in various subjects But they’re working with us, they’ll be in our classrooms to serve as assistant faculty members And I wanna just say a little housekeeping First of all again, this room we’re not supposed to have food or drink And I know that you guys don’t have break, possibly didn’t have a break, so if you can just, if you need to leave the room for any reason, talk to one of the tutors, they’ll just keep track, and they’ll be lookin’ out for you to come back in five minutes Bathrooms are downstairs, and just to your right So we have three hours, we’re not gonna, I’m not sure exactly if we’re gonna have break sessions, or what But if you need to, if you need to leave, tell one of the three, Brooke, Alex, or Ava, and they’ll say, okay, see ya in five minutes Come back in five minutes, alright That’s all I think I have to say, so I just hope you all have such a wonderful experience I feel such a good energy from you all I’m really just filled with gratitude that you’re here I just don’t know quite how to express it But thank you, and I’ll give it back to the faculty – Yeah – Great (audience applauding) I like this (laughing) (people chattering) – [Male] I like it more (people chattering) – We’re gonna be reading the first story of the book, called “The Things They Carried” You guys are welcome to follow along, or if you just wanna listen, that’s cool We thought it’d be really nice if we did a little reading for you guys today So– – [Male] Rock and roll – Let’s rock and roll baby – I’ll get started – Whoa, nice – with the first part (people chattering) Unlike my colleagues, I do need a microphone

(laughing) Okay, alright, so I’m gonna be starting with page one of “The Things They Carried” If you wanna follow along, actually yes, it’s on page one First Lieutenant, Jimmy Cross, carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount St. Sebastian College in New Jersey They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack In the late afternoon, after a days march, he would dig his fox hole, wash his hands under a canteen, unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending He would imagine romantic camping trips into the White Mountains in New Hampshire He would sometimes taste the envelope flaps knowing her tongue had been there More than anything, he wanted Martha to love him as he loved her, but the letters were mostly chatty, elusive on the matter of love She was a virgin, he was almost sure She was an English major at Mount Sebastian, and she wrote beautifully about her professors, and roommates, and midterm exams, about her respect for Chaucer, and her great affection for Virginia Wolfe She often quoted lines of poetry She never mentioned the war, except to say, Jimmy, take care of yourself The letters weighed 10 ounces They were signed love Martha, but Lieutenant Cross understood that love was only a way of signing It did not mean what he sometimes pretended it meant At dusk, he would carefully return the letters to his rucksack Slowly, a bit distracted, he would get up, and move among his men, checking the perimeter Then at full dark, he would return to his hole, and watch the night, and wonder if Martha was a virgin The things they carried were largely determined by necessity Among the necessities, or near necessities, were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wrist watches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, military payment certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water Together, these items weighed 15 to 20 pounds, depending upon a man’s habit or rate of metabolism Henry Dobbins, who was a big man, carried extra rations He was especially fond of canned peaches, and heavy syrup over pound cake Dave Jensen, who practiced field hygiene, carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel size bars of soap, he’d stolen on R and R in Sydney, Australia Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers, until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe in mid April By necessity, and because it was SOP, they all carried steel helmets that weighed five pounds, including the liner and camouflage cover They carried the standard fatigue jackets and trousers Very few carried underwear On their feet, they carried jungle boots, 2.1 pounds And Dave Jensen carried three pairs of socks, and a can of Dr. Scholl’s foot powder as a precaution against trench foot Until he was shot, Ted Lavender carried six or seven ounces of premium dope, which for him was a necessity Mitchell Sanders, the RTO, carried condoms Norman Bowker carried a diary Rat Kiley carried comic books Kiowa, a devout baptist, carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father, who taught Sunday School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma As a hedge against bad times however, Kiowa also carried his grandfather’s distrust of the White man, his grandfather’s old hunting hatchet Necessity dictated, because the land was mined and booby trapped, it was SOP for each man to carry a steel centered, nylon covered flack jacket, which weight 6.7 pounds, but which on hot days, seemed much heavier Because you could die so quickly, each man carried at least one large compress bandage, usually on the helmet for easy access Because the nights were cold, and because the monsoons were wet, each carried a green plastic poncho that could be used as a raincoat, or ground sheet, or make shift tent With its quilted liner, the poncho weighed almost two pounds, but it was worth every ounce In April for instance, when Ted Lavender was shot, they used his poncho to wrap him up, and to carry him across the paddy, then to lift him into the chopper that took him away They were called legs or grunts To carry something was to hump it, as when Lieutenant Jimmy Cross humped his love for Martha up the hills and through the swamps In its intransitive form, to hump meant to work, or to march, but it implied burdens far beyond the intransitive Almost everyone humped photographs In his wallet, Lieutenant Cross carried two photographs of Martha The first was a Kodacolor snapshot signed love, though he knew better She stood against a brick wall, her eyes were gray and neutral,

her lips slightly open as she starred straight on at the camera At night sometimes, Lieutenant Cross wondered who had taken the picture? Because he knew she had boyfriends, because he loved her so much, and because he could see the shadow of the picture taking spreading out against the brick wall The second photograph had been clipped from the 1968 Mount Sebastian yearbook It was an action shot, women’s volleyball, and Martha was bent horizontal to the floor, reaching the palms of her hand in sharp focus, the tongue taught, the expression frank and competitive There was no visible sweat She wore white gym shorts Her legs, he thought, were almost certainly the legs of a virgin, dry, and without hair The left knee cocked and carrying her entire weight, which was just over 100 pounds Lieutenant Cross remembered touching that left knee A dark theater, he remembered, and the movie was Bonnie and Clyde, and Martha wore a tweed skirt, and during the final scene, when he touched her knee, she turned and looked at him in a sad sober way that made him pull his hand back But he would always remember the feel of that tweed skirt, and the knee beneath it, and the sound of the gunfire that killed Bonnie and Clyde, how embarrassing it was, how slow, and oppressive He remembered kissing her goodnight at the dorm door Right then, he thought, he should’ve done something brave He should’ve carried her to the top of the stairs, and tied her to the bed, and touched her left knee all night long He should’ve risked it Whenever he looked at the photographs, he thought of new things he should’ve done What they carried was partly a function of rank, partly of field specialty As a first lieutenant and platoon leader, Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books, binoculars, and a .45 caliber pistol, that weighed 2.9 pounds fully loaded He carried a strobe light, and the responsibility for the lives of his men And as an RTO, Mitchell Sanders carried the PRC-25 radio, a killer 26 pounds with its battery As a medic, Rat Kiley carried a canvas satchel filled with morphine, and plasma, and malaria tablets, and surgical tape, and comic books, and all the things a medic must carry, including M&M’S for especially bad wounds, for a total weight of nearly 20 pounds As a big man, therefore a machine gunner, Henry Dobbins carried the M60, which weighed 23 pounds unloaded, but which was almost always loaded In addition, Dobbins carried between 10 and 15 pounds of ammunition, draped in belts across his chest and shoulders As PFCs or Spec-4s, most of them were common grunts, and carried the standard M16 gas operated assault rifle The weapon weighed 7.5 pounds unloaded, 8.2 pounds with its full 20 round magazine Depending on numerous factors, such as topography, and psychology, the riflemen carried anywhere from 12 to 20 magazines, usually in cloth bandoleers, adding on another 8.4 pounds at minimum, 14 pounds at maximum When it was available, they also carried M16 maintenance gear Rods, and steel brushes, and swabs, and tubes of LSA oil, all of which weighed about a pound Among the grunts, some carried the M79 grenade launcher 5.9 pounds unloaded, a reasonably light weapon, except for the ammunition, which was heavy A single round weighed 10 ounces The typical load was 25 rounds But Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried 34 rounds when he was shot and killed outside Than Khe, and he went down under an exceptional burden, more than 20 pounds of ammunition, plus the flack jacket, and helmet, and rations, and water, and toilet paper, and tranquilizers, and all the rest, plus the unweighed fear He was dead weight There was no twitching or flopping Kiowa who saw it happen, said it was like watching a rock fall, a big sandbag, or something Just boom, then down Not like the movies, where the dead guy rolls around, and does fancy spins, and goes ass over teakettle, not like that Kiowa said The poor bastard just flat fuck fell, boom, down, nothing else It was a bright morning in mid April, Lieutenant Cross felt the pain He blamed himself They stripped of Lavender’s canteens, and ammo, all the heavy things, and Rat Kiley said the obvious, the guy’s dead And Mitchell Sanders used his radio to report, one US KIA, and to request a chopper Then they wrapped Lavender in his poncho They carried him out to a dry paddy, established security, and sat smoking the dead man’s dope until the chopper came Lieutenant Cross kept to himself He pictured Martha’s smooth young face, thinking he loved her more than anything, more than his men, and now Ted Lavender was dead, because he loved her so much, and could not stop thinking about her When the dustoff arrived, they carried Lavender aboard Afterward, they burned Than Khe They marched until dusk, then dug their holes And that night, Kiowa kept explaining

how you had to be there, how fast it was, how the poor guy just dropped like so much concrete Boom, down, he said, like cement In addition to the three standard weapons, the M60, the M16, and the M79, they carried whatever presented itself, or whatever seemed appropriate as a means of killing or staying alive They carried catch-as-catch-can At various times, and various situations, they carried M14s, and CAR-15s, and Swedish Ks, and grease guns, and captured AK47s, and Chi-Coms, and RPGs, and Simonova carbines, and black market Uzis, and .38 caliber Smith & Wesson handguns, and 66 millimeter LAWs, and shotguns, and silencers, and blackjacks, and bayonets, and C-4 plastic explosives Lee Strunk carried a slingshot, a weapon of last resort he called it Mitchell Sanders carried brass knuckles Kiowa carried his grandfather’s feathered hatchet Every third or fourth man carried a Claymore anti-personnel mine 3.5 pounds with its firing device They all carried fragmentation grenades, 14 ounces each They all carried at least one M18 colored smoke grenade, 24 ounces Some carried CS, or tear gas grenades They carried white phosphorus grenades They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried – In the first week of April, before Lavender died, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross received a good luck charm from Martha It was a simple pebble, an ounce at most, smooth to the touch, it was a milky white color with flecks of orange and violet, oval shaped like a miniature egg In the accompanying letter, Martha wrote that she had found the pebble on the Jersey Shore line, precisely where the land touched water at high tide, where things came together, but also separated It was this separate but together quality, she wrote, that had inspired her to pick up the pebble, and to carry it in her breast pocket for several days, where it seemed weightless, and then to send it through the mail by air as a token of her truest feelings for him Lieutenant Cross found this romantic, but he wondered what her truest feelings were exactly, and what she meant by separate but together He wondered how the tides and waves had come into play on that afternoon along the Jersey Shore line, when Martha saw the pebble, and bent down to rescue it from geology He imagined her bare feet Martha was a poet with the poet sensibilities, and her feet would be brown and bare, the toenails unpainted, the eyes chilly and somber like the ocean in March And though it was painful, he wondered who had been with her that afternoon He imaged a pair of shadows moving along the strip of sand where things came together but also separated It was phantom jealousy, he knew, but he couldn’t help himself He loved her so much On the march through the hot days of early April, he carried the pebble in his mouth, turning it with his tongue, tasting sea salt and moisture His mind wandered He had difficulty keeping his attention on the war On occasion, he would yell at his men to spread out the column, to keep their eyes open, but then he would slip away into daydreams, just pretending, walking barefoot along the Jersey Shore with Martha carrying nothing He would feel himself rising, sun, and waves, and gentle winds, all love and lightness What they carried varied by mission When a mission took them to the mountains, they carried mosquito netting, machetes, canvas tarps, and extra bug juice If a mission seemed especially hazardous, or if it involved a place they knew to be bad, they carried everything they could In certain heavily mined AOs, where the land was dense with toe poppers and bouncing betties, they took turns humping a 28 pound mine detector With its headphones, and big sensing plate, the equipment was a stress on the lower back and shoulders, awkward to handle, often useless, because of the shrapnel in the Earth But they often carried it anyway, partly for safety, partly for the illusion of safety On ambush, or other night missions, they carried peculiar little odds and ends Kiowa always took along his New Testament, and a pair of moccasins for silence Dave Jensen carried night sight vitamins high in keratin Lee Strunk carried his slingshot, ammo, he claimed, would never be a problem Rat Kiley carried brandy and M&M’S candy Until he was shot, Ted Lavender carried the Starlight scope,

which weighed 6.3 pounds with its aluminum carrying case Henry Dobbins carried his girlfriend’s pantyhose wrapped around his neck as a comforter They all carried ghosts When dark came, they would move out, single file across the meadows and paddies to their ambush coordinates, where they would quietly set up the Claymore’s, and lie down, and spend the night waiting Other missions were more complicated, and required special equipment In mid April, it was their mission to search out and destroy the elaborate tunnel complexes in the Than Khe area South of Chu Lai To blow the tunnels, they carried one pound blocks of pentrite high explosive, four blocks to a man, 68 pounds in all They carried wiring, detonators, and battery-powered clackers Dave Jensen carried earplugs Most often, before blowing the tunnels, they were ordered by higher command to search them, which was considered bad news, but by and large, they just shrugged and carried out orders Because he was a big man, Henry Dobbins was excused from tunnel duty The others would draw numbers Before Lavender died, there were 17 men in the platoon, and whoever drew the number 17, would strip off his gear, and crawl in head first with a flashlight, and Lieutenant Cross’ .45 caliber pistol The rest of them would fan out as security They would sit down or kneel, not facing the hole, listening to the ground beneath them, imagining cobwebs, and ghosts, whatever was down there The tunnel walls squeezing in, how the flashlight seemed impossibly heavy in the hand, and how it was tunnel vision in the very strictest sense Compression in all ways, even time And how you had to wiggle in ass and elbow, a swallowed up feeling, and how you found yourself worrying about odd things Will your flashlight go dead? Do rats carry rabies? If you screamed, how far would the sound carry? Would your buddies hear it? Would they have the courage to drag you out? In some respects though, not many, the waiting worse than the tunnel itself Imagination was a killer On April 16, when Lee Strunk drew the number 17, he laughed and muttered something, and went down quickly The morning was hot and very still Not good, Kiowa said He looked at the tunnel opening, then out across a dry paddy, toward the village of Than Khe, nothing moved, no clouds, or birds, or people As they waited, the men smoked, and drank Kool-Aid, not talking much, feeling sympathy for Lee Strunk, but also feeling the luck of the draw You win some, you lose some, said Mitchell Sanders, and sometimes you settle for a raincheck It was a tired line, and no one laughed Henry Dobbins ate a tropical chocolate bar Ted Lavender popped a tranquilizer, and went off to pee After five minutes, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross moved to the tunnel, leaned down, and examined the darkness Trouble he thought, a cave in maybe And then suddenly, without willing it, he was thinking about Martha The stresses, and fractures, the quick collapse, the two of them buried alive under all that weight, dense crushing love Kneeling, watching the hole, he tried to concentrate on Lee Strunk, and the war, all the dangers, but his love was too much for him He felt paralyzed He wanted to sleep inside her lungs, and breathe her blood, and be smothered He wanted her to be a virgin, and not a virgin all at once He wanted to know her intimate secrets Why poetry? Why so sad? Why that grayness in her eyes? Why so alone? Not lonely, just alone, riding her bike across campus, or sitting off by herself in the cafeteria Even dancing, she danced alone, and it was the aloneness that filled him with love He remembered telling her that one evening, how she nodded and looked away, and how later when he kissed her, she received the kiss without returning it Her eyes wide open, not afraid, not a virgin’s eyes, just flat and uninvolved Lieutenant Cross gazed at the tunnel, but he was not there, he was buried with Martha under the white sand at the Jersey Shore They were pressed together, and the pebble in his mouth was her tongue He was smiling Vaguely, he was aware of how quiet the day was, the sullen paddies Yet he could not bring himself to worry about matters of security He was beyond that, he was just a kid at war, in love He was 24 years old, he couldn’t help it A few moments later, Lee Strunk crawled out of the tunnel He came up grinning, filthy, but alive Lieutenant Cross nodded, and closed his eyes, while the others clapped Strunk on the back, and made jokes about rising from the dead

Worms, Rat Kiley said, right out of the grave, fuckin’ zombie The men laughed They all felt great relief Spook City, said Mitchell Sanders Lee Strunk made a funny ghost sound, a kind of moaning, yet very happy And right then, when Strunk made that high, happy moaning sound, when he went ha hoo, right then Ted Lavender was shot in the head on his way back from peeing He lay with his mouth open The teeth were broken There was a swollen black bruise under his left eye The cheekbone was gone Oh shit, Rat Kiley said, the guy’s dead, the guy’s dead, he kep saying, which seemed profound The guy’s dead, I mean, really The things they carried were determined to some extent by superstition Lieutenant Cross carried his good luck pebble Dave Jensen carried a rabbit’s foot Norman Bowker, otherwise a very gentle person, carried a thumb that had been presented to him as a gift by Mitchell Sanders The thumb was dark brown, rubbery to the touch, and weighed four ounces at most It had been cut from a VC corpse, a boy of 15 or 16 They’d found him at the bottom of an irrigation ditch, badly burned, flies in his mouth and eyes The boy wore black shorts and sandals At the time of his death, he had been carrying a pouch of rice, a rifle, and three magazines of ammunition You want my opinion, Mitchell Sanders said? There’s a definite moral here He put his hand out on the dead boy’s wrist He was quiet for a time, as if counting a pulse, then he patted the stomach almost affectionately, and used Kiowa’s hunting hatchet to remove the thumb Henry Dobbins asked what the moral was Moral? You know, moral Sanders wrapped the thumb in toilet paper, and handed it across to Norman Bowker There was no blood Smiling, he kicked the boy’s head, watched the flies scatter, and said, it’s like with that old TV show, Paladin, Have Gun – Will Travel Henry Dobbins thought about it Yeah well, he finally said, I don’t see no moral There it is man Fuck off They carried USO stationary, and pencils, and pens They carried Sterno, safety pens, strip flares, signal flares, spools of wire, razor blades, chewing tobacco, liberated joss sticks, and statutes of the smiling Buddha, candles, grease pencils, the stars and stripes, fingernail clippers, Psy Ops leaflets, bush hats, bolos, and much more Twice a week, when the re-supply choppers came in, they carried hot chow in green mermite cans, and large canvas bags filled with ice, beer, and soda pop They carried plastic water containers, each with a two gallon capacity Mitchell Sanders carried a set of starched tiger fatigues for a special occasion Henry Dobbins carried Black Flag insecticide Dave Jensen carried empty sandbags that could be filled at night for added protection Lee Strunk carried tanning lotion Some things they carried in common Taking turns, they carried the big PRC-77 scrambler radio, which weighed 30 pounds with its battery They shared the weight of memory They took up what others could no longer bear Often, they carried each other, the wounded or weak They carried infections They carried chess sets, basketballs, Vietnamese English dictionaries, insignia of rank, bronze stars, and purple hearts, plastic hearts imprinted with the code of conduct They carried diseases, among them malaria, and dysentery They carried lice, and ringworm, and leeches, and paddy algae, and various roots and molds They carried the land itself, Vietnam, the place, the soil, a powdery orange-red dust that covered their boots, and fatigues, and faces They carried the sky The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it They carried gravity They moved like mules By daylight, they took sniper fire At night, they were mortared But it was not battle, it was just the endless march village to village without purpose, nothing won or lost They marched for the sake of the march They plodded along slowly, dumbly, leaning forward against the heat, unthinking, all blood and bones, simple grunts, soldering with their legs, toiling up the hills, and down into the paddies, and across the rivers, and up again, and down Just humping one step, and then the next, and then another, but no volition, no will, because it was automatic It was anatomy, and the war was entirely a matter of posture, and carriage, and hump was everything, a kind of inertia, a kind of emptiness, a dullness of desire, and intellect, and conscious, and hope, and human sensibility

Their principles were in their feet Their calculations were biological They had no sense of strategy or mission They searched the villages without knowing what to look for, not caring, kicking over jars of rice, frisking children and old men, blowing tunnels, sometimes setting fires and sometimes not, then forming up and moving on to the next village, then other villages, where it would always be the same They carried their own lives The pressures were enormous In the heat of early afternoon, they would remove their helmets and flak jackets, walking bare, which was dangerous but which helped ease the strain They would often discard things along the route of march Purely for comfort, they would throw away rations, blow their Claymores and grenades, no matter, because by nightfall the resupply choppers would arrive with more of the same, then a day or two later still more, fresh watermelons and crates of ammunition and sunglasses and woolen sweaters The resources were stunning Sparklers for the Fourth of July, colored eggs for Easter It was the great American war chest The fruits of science, the smokestacks, the canneries, the arsenals at Hartford, the Minnesota forests, the machine shops, the vast fields of corn and wheat They carried like freight trains, they carried it on their backs and shoulders And for all the ambiguities of Vietnam, all the mysteries and unknowns, there was at least the single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry After the chopper took Lavender away, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross led his men into the village of Than Khe They burned everything They shot chickens and dogs, they trashed the village well, they called in artillery and watched the wreckage, then they marched for several hours through the hot afternoon, and then at dusk, while Kiowa explained how Lavender died, Lieutenant Cross found himself trembling He tried not to cry With his entrenching tool, which weighed 5 pounds, he began digging a hole in the earth He felt shame He hated himself He had loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war All he could do was dig He used his entrenching tool like an ax, slashing, feeling both love and hate, and then later, when it was full dark, he sat at the bottom of his foxhole and wept It went on for a long while In part, he was grieving for Ted Lavender, but mostly it was for Martha, and for himself, because she belonged to another world, which was not quite real, and because she was a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey, a poet and a virgin and uninvolved, and because he realized she did not love him and never would Like cement, Kiowa whispered in the dark I swear to God, boom, down, not a word I’ve heard this, said Norman Bowker A pisser, you know? Still zipping himself up Zapped while zipping All right, fine That’s enough Yeah, but you had to see it, the guy just I heard, man, cement So why not shut the fuck up? Kiowa shook his head sadly and glanced over at the hole where Lieutenant Jimmy Cross sat watching the night The air was thick and wet A warm dense fog had settled over the paddies and there was the stillness that precedes rain After a time Kiowa sighed One thing for sure, he said The lieutenant’s in some deep hurt I mean that crying jag, the way he was carrying on, it wasn’t fake or anything, it was real heavy-duty hurt The man cares Sure, Norman Bowker said Say what you want, the man does care We all got problems Not Lavender No, I guess not, Bowker said Do me a favor, though Shut up? That’s a smart Indian Shut up Shrugging, Kiowa pulled off his boots He wanted to say more, just to lighten up his sleep, but instead he opened his New Testament and arranged it beneath his head as a pillow The fog made things seem hollow and unattached He tried not to think about Ted Lavender, but then he was thinking how fast it was, no drama, down and dead, and how it was hard to feel anything except surprise It seemed unchristian He wished he could find some great sadness, or even anger, but the emotion wasn’t there and he couldn’t make it happen Mostly he felt pleased to be alive He liked the smell of the New Testament under his cheek, the leather and ink and paper and glue, whatever the chemicals were He liked hearing the sounds of night Even his fatigue, it felt fine, the stiff muscles and the prickly awareness of his own body, a floating feeling He enjoyed not being dead Lying there, Kiowa admired Lieutenant Jimmy Cross’s capacity for grief He wanted to share the man’s pain, he wanted to care as Jimmy Cross cared And yet when he closed his eyes, all he could think was boom, down, and all he could feel was the pleasure

of having his boots off and the fog curling in around him, and the damp soil and the Bible smells, and the plush comfort of night After a moment Norman Bowker sat up in the dark What the hell, he said You want to talk, talk Talk to me Forget it No, man, go on One thing I hate, it’s a silent Indian For the most part they carried themselves with poise, a kind of dignity Now and then, however, there were times of panic, when they squealed or wanted to squeal but couldn’t, when they twitched and made moaning sounds and covered their heads and said, dear Jesus and flopped around on the earth and fired their weapons blindly, and cringed, and sobbed, and begged for the noise to stop, and went wild, and made stupid promises to themselves, and to God and to their mothers and fathers, hoping not to die In different ways, it happened to all of them Afterward, when the firing ended, they would blink and peek up They would touch their bodies, feeling shame, then quickly hiding it They would force themselves to stand As if in slow motion, frame by frame, the world would take on the old logic, absolute silence, then the wind, then sunlight, then voices It was the burden of being alive Awkwardly, the men would reassemble themselves, first in private, then in groups, becoming soldiers again They would repair the leaks in their eyes They would check for casualties, call in dustoffs, light cigarettes, try to smile, clear their throats and spit and begin cleaning their weapons After a time someone would shake his head and say, no lie, I almost shit my pants, and someone else would laugh, which meant it was bad, yes, but the guy had obviously not shit his pants, it wasn’t that bad, and in any case nobody would ever do such a thing and then go ahead and talk about it They would squint into the dense, oppressive sunlight For a few moments, perhaps, they would fall silent, lighting a joint, and tracking its passage from man to man, inhaling, holding in the humiliation Scary stuff, one of them might say But then someone else would grin or flick his eyebrows and say, Roger-dodger, almost cut me a new asshole, almost There were numerous such poses Some carried themselves with a sort of wistful resignation, others with pride, or stiff soldierly discipline, or good humor, or macho zeal They were afraid of dying but they were even more afraid to show it They found jokes to tell They used a hard dictionary to contain the terrible softness Greased, they’d say Offed, lit up, zapped while zipping It wasn’t cruelty, just stage presence They were actors When someone died, it wasn’t quite dying, because in a curious way it seemed scripted, and because they had their lines mostly memorized, irony mixed with tragedy, and because they called it by other names, as if to encyst, and destroy the reality of death itself They kicked corpses They cut off thumbs They talked grunt lingo They told stories about Ted Lavender’s supply of tranquilizers, how the poor guy didn’t feel a thing, how incredibly tranquil he was There’s a moral here, said Mitchell Sanders They were waiting for Lavender’s chopper, smoking the dead man’s dope The moral’s pretty obvious, Sanders said, and winked Stay away from drugs No joke, they’ll ruin your every day, every time Cute, said Henry Dobbins Mind blower, get it? Talk about wiggy Nothing left, just blood and brains They made themselves laugh There it is, they’d say Over and over, there it is, my friend, there it is, as if the repetition itself were an act of poise, a balance between crazy and almost crazy, knowing without going, there it is, which meant be cool, let it ride, because Oh yeah, man, you can’t change what can’t be changed, there it is, there it absolutely, and positively, and fucking well is They were tough They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die Grief, terror, love, longing, these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight They carried shameful memories They carried the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run, or freeze, or hide, and in many respects, this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down, it required perfect balance and perfect posture They carried their reputations They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor They died so as not to die of embarrassment They crawled into tunnels, and walked point, and advanced under fire Each morning, despite the unknown, they made their legs move They endured They kept humping They did not submit to the obvious alternative, which was simply to close the eyes and fall So easy, really Go limp and tumble to the ground, and let the muscles unwind, and not speak, and not budge until your buddies picked you up, and lifted you into the chopper that would roar, and dip its nose and carry you off to the world A mere matter of falling, yet no one ever fell It was not courage, exactly, the object was not valor Rather, they were too frightened to be cowards By and large they carried these things inside,

maintaining the masks of composure They sneered at sick call They spoke bitterly about guys who had found release by shooting off their own toes or fingers Pussies, they’d say Candy-asses It was fierce, mocking talk, with only a trace of envy or awe, but even so the image played itself out behind their eyes They imagined the muzzle against flesh So easy, squeeze the trigger and blow away a toe They imagined it They imagined the quick, sweet pain, then the evacuation to Japan, then a hospital with warm beds and cute geisha nurses And they dreamed of freedom birds At night, on guard, staring into the dark, they were carried away by jumbo jets They felt the rush of takeoff Gone they yelled And then velocity, wings, and engines, a smiling stewardess But it was more than a plane, it was a real bird, a big sleek silver bird with feathers and talons and high screeching They were flying The weights fell off, there was nothing to bear They laughed and held on tight, feeling the cold slap of wind and altitude, soaring, thinking, it’s over, I’m gone They were naked, they were light and free It was all lightness, bright and fast and buoyant, light as light, a helium buzz in the brain, a giddy bubbling in the lungs as they were taken up over the clouds and the war, beyond duty, beyond gravity, and mortification and global entanglements, Sin loi, they yelled I’m sorry, motherfuckers, but I’m out of it, I’m on a space cruise, I’m gone It was a restful, unencumbered sensation, just riding the light waves, sailing that big silver freedom bird over the mountains and oceans, over America, over the farms, and great sleeping cities, and cemeteries, and highways, and the golden arches of McDonald’s, it was flight, a kind of fleeing, a kind of falling, falling higher and higher, spinning off the edge of the earth, and beyond the sun, and through the vast, silent vacuum where there were no burdens, and where everything weighed exactly nothing, gone they screamed I’m sorry but I’m gone And so at night, not quite dreaming, they gave themselves over to lightness, they were carried, they were purely borne On the morning after Ted Lavender died, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross crouched at the bottom of his foxhole and burned Martha’s letters Then he burned the two photographs There was a steady rain falling, which made it difficult, but he used heat tabs, and Sterno to build a small fire, screening it with his body, holding the photographs over the tight blue flame with the tips of his fingers He realized it was only a gesture Stupid, he thought Sentimental, too, but mostly just stupid Lavender was dead You couldn’t burn the blame Besides, the letters were in his head And even now, without photographs, Lieutenant Cross could see Martha playing volleyball in her white gym shorts, and yellow T-shirt He could see her moving in the rain When the fire died out, Lieutenant Cross pulled his poncho over his shoulders and ate breakfast from a can There was no great mystery, he decided In those burned letters Martha had never mentioned the war, except to say, Jimmy, take care of yourself She wasn’t involved She signed the letters love, but it wasn’t love, and all the fine lines and technicalities did not matter Virginity was no longer an issue He hated her Yes, he did He hated her Love, too, but it was a hard, hating kind of love The morning came up wet and blurry Everything seemed part of everything else, the fog and Martha and the deepening rain He was a soldier, after all Half smiling, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross took out his maps He shook his head hard, as if to clear it, then bent forward and began planning the day’s march In ten minutes, or maybe twenty, he would rouse the men and they would pack up and head west, where the maps showed the country to be green and inviting They would do what they had always done The rain might add some weight, but otherwise it would be one more day layered upon all the other days He was realistic about it There was that new hardness in his stomach He loved her but he hated her No more fantasies, he told himself Henceforth, when he thought about Martha, it would be only to think that she belonged elsewhere He would shut down the daydreams This was not Mount Sebastian, it was another world, where there were no pretty poems or midterm exams, a place where men died because of carelessness, and gross stupidity Kiowa was right Boom down, and you were dead, never partly dead Briefly, in the rain, Lieutenant Cross saw Martha’s gray eyes gazing back at him He understood It was very sad, he thought The things men carried inside The things men did or felt they had to do He almost nodded at her, but didn’t Instead he went back to his maps He was now determined to perform his duties firmly, and without negligence It wouldn’t help Lavender, he knew that, but from this point on he would comport himself as an officer He would dispose of his good luck pebble Swallow it, maybe, or use Lee Strunk’s slingshot, or just drop it along the trail On the march he would impose strict field discipline He would be careful to send out flank security, to prevent straggling or bunching up, to keep his troops moving at the proper pace, and at the proper interval

He would insist on clean weapons He would confiscate the remainder of Lavender’s dope Later in the day, perhaps, he would call the men together, and speak to them plainly He would accept the blame for what had happened to Ted Lavender He would be a man about it He would look them in the eyes, keeping his chin level, and he would issue the new standard operating procedures in a calm, impersonal tone of voice, a lieutenant’s voice, leaving no room for argument or discussion Commencing immediately, he’d tell them, they would no longer abandon equipment along the route of march They would police up their acts They would get their shit together, and keep it together, and maintain it neatly, and in good working order He would not tolerate laxity He would show strength, distancing himself Among the men there would be grumbling, of course, and maybe worse, because their days would seem longer and their loads heavier, but Lieutenant Jimmy Cross reminded himself that his obligation was not to be loved, but to lead He would dispense with love; it was not now a factor And if anyone quarreled or complained, he would simply tighten his lips, and arrange his shoulders in the correct command posture He might give a curt little nod, or he might not He might just shrug, and say, carry on, then they would saddle up, and form into a column, and move out toward the villages west of Than Khe (audience applauding) Okay, part of the presentation for today, oh wow, this thing was turned off? – [Male] What is it? (people chattering faintly) That thing working? (chuckling) You’re gonna see a short video, actually not too short The first like five or six minutes is something I put together to welcome you to the college, and to explain what the program is a little further, okay, and to express a little bit about what we’re gonna do And then you’re gonna see a film about Vietnam, and there is some rather disturbing footage here, but this is war, and this is what you’re gonna read about Yeah, do you guys have any questions about the program, or about what’s expected of you? You wanna ask us any questions? No, you’re ready for your first homework assignment? Cool – [Male] What? – Read the rest of the book, and I expect a 25 page essay by Friday – [Male] Alright you got it Yeah – [Pobric] Only 25? – I know, I’m goin’ easy on them this time No questions? – [Pobric] I have a question for you – Uh-oh – [Pobric] We just had this long, this reading of “The Things They Carried”, and some film about Vietnam Before you came here, do you have any, what are your thoughts about Vietnam, the Vietnam War? What did it mean to you? Know anyone that was in it? Yeah – Listen up – [Female] My uncle who was in Vietnam – [Pobric] Your uncle was in Vietnam What did you know about it from him? What did it involve? – [Female] He doesn’t really talk about, actually, yeah he does He’s in therapy a lot, and he drinks a lot, and I’ve seen him cry over it a lot And so, yeah, it’s still a big part of his life He’s like 50 right now, and he still thinks about it – [Pobric] So, and it was how many years ago? – [Female] I don’t know – So it’s ended – 30 – 35 years ago – 35 to 40 years ago – Yeah – Thank you Anyone else have any questions about Vietnam War before you came in? Yeah – [Male] I think it was meaningless war – [Pobric] You think it was a meaningless war, that’s a good view – All wars are meaningless (audience member speaking faintly) What did we gain from anything else? I mean if you’re fighting Syria in World War II was a fighting experience We didn’t gain anything from it though Right? And we lose a lot of lives Excuse me? – [Male] In Europe we fought like (speaking faintly) – And Europe was leveled in World War II It took 30 years to rebuild most places, yeah – [Pobric] Other thoughts about Vietnam? Anything that you feel already you learned about it, that you never thought of before? – [Male] I didn’t know that many people died – [Pobric] Didn’t know the numbers (people chattering faintly) Anything else? You? What did you learn while you’re in this thing Chris? – [Chris] Just how the U.S.A (speaking faintly) – [Pobric] Do what? – [Chris] You have to teach us (speaking faintly) – Did you guys, do you guys catch though, when that new reporter was on, what was interesting about the Vietnam War, it was the first war to be put on television – [Male] Nice – I mean they show, I remember when I was a kid in the 60s, channel two had the news Every night they told you what was goin’ on in Vietnam You don’t hear that now with the Iraq war though They don’t wanna let you know what’s goin’ on But did you notice from that new report, the guy said that, you know, so over 270 plus soldiers were killed in one week when he reported that

One week, 270 poor, so that’s incredible – You know the Vietnam– (cross talking) – Say it again (people speaking faintly) Okay, do you wanna go? – Okay I think I’m gonna need the microphone Turn it on – [James] One, two, oh yeah, you’re with us – Okay, I know I’m hard to hear This is just gonna be a little brief introduction to the math component of the course The first part of the course is gonna be about statistics And statistics has different meanings Some of you may have studied a little bit as part of your high school courses The actual current definition of statistics is, is the branch of mathematics that has to do with analyzing data But sometimes there’s some confusion, because the word statistics, singular, means the data itself I wanna talk a little bit about the history of where statistics comes from The word is from a German word that meant the study of political facts and figures And it comes from the Latin word status, which means position or state Now in this case, the word state doesn’t mean like a state in the United States What do you think the word state means in this case? Anybody wanna guess? In this case, the word state actually means government So the word statistics actually comes from the Latin word for government One of the first books about statistics was written in seven, 1676, and it was called “Political Arithmetic” And that was defined to be the art of reasoning by figures upon things relating to government So statistics was originally something that was used for politics, and for figures that related to government So just keep that in mind as we think about, well why are we learning statistics having to do with this book, or about the Vietnam War? Well there’s a lot of different types of questions that can be answered with statistics For instance, if you were a political scientist, what kinds of questions do you think you would want to know about the Vietnam War? Well I thought about it a little bit For instance, did the Vietnam War have any influence on the elections in 1968 and 1972? And did the activism by students in the 1960s have anything to do with the passing of the 26th amendment? Does everybody here know what the 26th amendment is? – No – Yeah – Well what was the 26th amendment? No one wants to say what it is (audience members speaking faintly) Boy, people don’t know much history The 26th amendment gave 18 year olds the right to vote Does anybody know when that was passed? (audience members speaking faintly) 1971, I was in high school at the time, and believe me, everybody was watching what was happening with that vote Because when I grew up, 18 year olds could not vote This is something that you take for granted, because your whole lives, you’ve already always known that 18 year olds could vote When I was in high school, that wasn’t the case So that was big news back then And I would venture to guess, that the Vietnam War had a lot to do with that amendment Some of the questions that I’d be interested in knowing is, how many Americans served in the Armed Forces in Vietnam? Does anybody wanna guess what they think the answer is? – [Male] A couple million – Actually, I don’t know the total number, but it was a very very large number compared to people in the military today And in order to understand what was going on politically in this country, you might wanna know, well, of those people, how many were volunteers? How many were drafted? What percentage were volunteers? What percentage were drafted? How old were these Americans who were serving the Armed Forces? And was there a difference in the average age of the volunteers versus the average age of those who were drafted? And when I say the word average, what do you think I mean by average? Can somebody define what an average is? – [Male] You add it up, and divide by the number (speaking faintly) – Okay, that’s called the mean Does anybody have another definition of average? Yes – [Male] Estimated guess – Well, an average shouldn’t be a guess There’s actually a mathematical definition for an average, but there’s more than one definition So that’s one of the things that we’ll be doing during the next eight weeks, is to figure out what is an average? Is it adding them up and dividing by the number? That’s one way of taking an average Or is it putting the numbers in order and looking for the middle? That’s a different type of average called the median Now another question that I’m very interested in,

was were there women serving in the Armed Forces? I know back then, most of the women in the military were nurses What percentage? And how does that compare with women who serve in the military today? Very different roles that women in the military were allowed to have during the Vietnam War compared to women in the military today So I did some digging, and I found some numbers, and I found that these were the actual numbers of troops in Vietnam from 1959 to 1973 Is it easy to read those numbers? [All] Yeah – Is it easy to see when was the highest number? – [Male] Yes – Yeah – Oh yeah, what year was the highest number? – [All] 1968 – 1968 Alright, well suppose I take those numbers, and write them in a table Is it easier to see that now? [All] Yes – Yes Alright, well suppose I take those numbers, instead of writing them in a table, I put them in a bar chart Now can you see right away at what point was the highest troop level? – [All] Yes – Yeah And what happened after 1968? – [All] Went down – Went down Alright, so it looked like there was a steady increase until 1968, and then the troop levels went down after that And can you tell approximately what the troop level was in 1968? (audience members all talking at once) Okay, how do you know that? (audience members all talking at once) Okay, so you were looking at the chart on the left, which clearly shows that it’s between 500 and 600 thousand But does it really clearly show just what that number is? So this is just one way to look at that data, to be able to see how many people did we really have in the military at that time This is another way of looking at the data This is another way This is an example of a line chart All of this is the exact same data, only now instead of having bars, I have lines Can you tell from that what year was the highest troop level? – 1968 – Yes, 1968 How ’bout this? Can you tell immediately what’s the highest troop level from that chart? – Yeah – No If you look at for a while, you can see that it looks like the purple wedge is the largest wedge of the pie chart, and if you look at the legend on the right, it looks like that’s from 1968 But not as obvious in a pie chart as it is in a bar graph So I took that, and I changed it into a three dimensional view, and maybe a little bit easier now But still, I think the bar chart would probably be an easier way to look at it So what I did, was I took the same data, and instead of writing it out in a narrative form, I put it in graphical form And there’s four different types of graphs that tell you exactly the same numbers But which of this is the actually, the easiest to read? – The first one – The first one So in this case, a bar chart would be the easiest way to see that data So this is just a very brief introduction to what sorts of things we’re gonna be looking at We’re gonna be looking at data We’re gonna be looking at different ways to display the data, ways to find averages, and ways to analyze data based on the different types of charts So I don’t wanna spend a lot of time doing math right now When we come back next Wednesday, we’ll be looking at these in a little bit more detail Do you wanna? – [James] Yeah Okay, we have a guest here today Actually it’s a former student of mine And he still attends Queensborough And he’s an Iraq War veteran And he just wants to speak with you guys for a short while, and maybe explain a bit about his experience over in Iraq, and what it was like to be there A lot of people have joined parallels between what happened in Vietnam and what’s happening now in Iraq (laughing) And maybe we’ll find out a little bit more about the things they carry, because Travis is gonna help us out with that Okay guys, listen up (audience members chattering) You wanna get thrown out of the program the first day? At least make it till next week Okay ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to Travis Meyer Take it away (audience members cheering and applauding) – Good afternoon How’s everybody doin’ today? – Good – Can’t complain – Alright, it’s my understanding you guys are reading “The Things They Carried” Correct? – [All] Yes – And how far along in the book have you guys come? (audience members talking at once) First chapter, right on I just got done readin’ that book myself last semester

Good book Author Tim O’Brien talks about a lot of deep subjects in that book How many of you guys like it so far? How many guys don’t like it? How many guys don’t care? (laughing) There we go, honesty, nice – [James] One third, one third, one third – Yeah, that math never adds up That’s alright, the book’s not for everybody I thought it was a very good book I hope you guys enjoy it as you read along Which chapter did they read? The read the first one – Oh, it was the first one, just about so we could see the balance between the psychological and (speaking faintly) – Alright, yeah, it’s a good introductory chapter It talks a lot about the tangible versus the intangible that the average grunt carries Did you guys pick up on that? – [All] Yeah – Both the instruments of warfare that we carry, and of course, our own psychological burdens Pretty deep, right? – It is – Yeah – I thought so A little bit of background on me I’m also a fellow graduate of Francis Lewis I graduated 2004 I enlisted in the Marine Corp immediately after graduating at the age of 17 I did four years on active duty Was honorably discharged, and I did three combat deployments to Iraq That’s a lot for somebody who gets out at 21, right, in a four year period early on Yeah, it’s pretty crazy I still think it’s crazy I don’t know But you know, after readin’ the book, and lookin’ back on my own thoughts, and my own experiences, the author Tim O’Brien, he gets pretty in there It’s, he does a really good job about talkin’ about that To this day, like I still don’t know what was a bigger burden for me, you know, the stuff that I carried around on my back, which was a lot He talks about some of it The gears gotten a lot heavier since the late 1960s I don’t think they carried as much armor as we do Of course, the physical danger wasn’t as high as it was for guys like Mister O’Brien Some of your, some people who were alive during the ‘Nam era will tell you they were bringing caskets home every week Whereas today, I don’t think combined, Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve topped 5,000 in KIA for US troops yet It’s a lot smaller of a number then the Vietnam era The danger is still just as real Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been pretty close to it myself Had several occasions where I’ve seen combat But again, not as heavy as a war as ‘Nam was Anybody here got family members currently serving? Friends, anything like that? How do you guys feels about readin’ this book, you know, and thinkin’ about? Who’s got an immediate family member, father, brother, anything like that? Cousin? Good friend? Where is he servin’? – [Male] I don’t know, in Afghanistan – Right now? Which branch? Don’t know How long you known your buddy for? How long you known your buddy for? – Five years – Five years You write to ’em? – [Male] Nah, he writes me when he was in bootcamp – That’s cool. How did that make you feel when he joined, and he went over there? How’d that make you feel when he joined, and he went over there? (audience member speaking faintly) Nah, I’m sayin’ (laughing) how did that make you feel when he joined? – When he was in – Yeah When– – Oh God – [Male] He wanted to his whole life, so – That’s cool Yeah, I did too, so I guess I could feel with him on that one – [Male] He wants to go to the Marines too – Oh yeah (audience members chattering) – [Male] Most of you are rangers – A ranger (laughing) So I don’t know, do you want me to– – [James] Yeah, just explain– – Talk about some of this stuff Alright, yeah, I brought some things for you guys Just a couple of the things that we carried out there, so I can give you kind of like a, I don’t know, like a show and tell kinda thing – [Male] Is there a gun (speaking faintly)? – No, there’s no guns in here – [James] Because they’re hidden in the line of– – This is PG – [Female] Ohh, there’s a bag (audience members chattering) – This is a magazine, that’s the closest thing I got to the gun But it’s 30 rounds Let’s see, a full mag weighs about one pound The unloaded M16 A-4 service rifle, if I got my math correct, is eight pounds, nine ounces And you add this, that’s another pound So that’s one of the things I carried 12 of those on me personally Just a set of prayer beads I picked up out there They make for a good trading item I don’t know, we trade a lot of stuff, Zippos, prayer beads,

stuff that we find around the way So that’s just somethin’ I took home Thought it was kinda cool This is a little, they got a sign that they fly out there a lot They don’t really, I guess Tim O’Brien touches on it a little bit it in certain parts of the story I don’t wanna ruin it for you, you know ruin the later chapters on But I want you to remember this little saying here They put it on signs all over the place out in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it says, complacency kills Anybody know what complacency means? – [Male] No – No idea? – [Male] What is it? – It’s kinda like a, you say lazy, not caring so much attitude – Not paying attention – Not paying attention, that’s probably the best way to put it It’s when you go into la la land, and you lose focus of where you are at that moment And you know, that’s one of the big things that can get you killed out there, when you got stuff like roadside bombs that are very hard to see One of my, my actual job when I was in Iraq was to go out and safely remove roadside bombs I wasn’t necessarily a direct combatant, but what I did ended up saving a lot of lives out there And it was, as you can imagine, it’s a pretty dangerous job, so That was my, they call it a field specialty So that’s what I did, demolitions, and counter-demolitions What’s up? You got a question? – [Male] You had to like ride around inside like most tanks, right? – What’s up? – You gotta ride around in one of those tanks, and have like a shooter at the top or somethin’? – Well not quite I mean it depended on what year I was there In 2005, I use to walk around the side of a road with a metal detector and a shovel But in 2007, when the technology got a little bit better, you had companies like General Dynamics, and you know Lockheed Martin, workin’ on stuff for us And then we rode around in these big mine resistant vehicles that had robotic arms on ’em One of ’em was in Transformers Anybody see that movie? – Yeah – Anyways – Yeah, the one with the claw that was like rollin’ up and down the highway, throwin’ cars around, that narly thing Yeah, that’s what I rode in in ’07 Four inch thick ballistic glass windows, titanium reinforced steel, I was safe in there I got blown up in it. It felt like we ran over a speed bump Yeah, that thing was good to go I actually got a chunk of it in here somewhere Where is it? Here we go Feel that metal Pretty dense, right? You’d feel pretty safe ridin’ around in a thing made of this? – No – No? How ’bout you? Got some weight to it, right? Yeah, it’s good stuff – [Female] Did you take it off yourself? – No, the enemy took this off for me I picked it up when it was on the ground afterwards What’s up? You got a question? (mumbling) What’s up? – [Male] Did you kill anybody? – That’s the question you get the most Yeah, it’s a funny question The thing is, and I’m gonna kind answer that a little indirectly, while keepin’ this PG, when there’s about 12 or 16 Marines on line, and you guys take fire from a building 250 meters out, and everybody returns fire, and you go into that building, and there’s dead people in it, and nobody knows who killed ’em, everybody pulled the trigger though, so There’s not a, it’s not like Hollywood, where you know, shoot the guy, and the bad guy does like the little funky chicken, and then he hits the deck, you know – [Male] Like Call of Duty where you hit a body? – Yeah, it’s not like Call of Duty, no (laughing) Good game though, right? – [Male] Yeah – Yeah, it’s not– – You should get your money back from that one – Not like Call of Duty though, it’s a totally different monster So I’m just gonna go through a few more of the things in here – [James] If y’all have any questions while I do that, please– – Yeah, yeah, I don’t mind, I don’t mind answerin’ questions That’s what I’m here for Anybody else right off the, go ahead – [Male] Were you like cool being like shot at? Not close, but like close enough – Oh yeah, I mean I never actually physically saw the guy ever shooting at me, like but you know, you hear the whizz over your head, or you know, just the concrete, you know, chips off the wall, or whatever, you know That’s about it I mean there was a funny saying that my, one of my range coaches told me when I was in basic training, and he said, and this was to get me on target, this was when I was learning how to shoot and everything, and he said, you know, take your time, breathe deep, focus, get good sight picture, sight alignment And he said, remember, you have the rest of your life to take that shot And I said, wow, that’s kinda crazy thinkin’ about that in that kind of retrospective And he said that the rest of my life was determined by how good of a shot the enemy was So you know, it could be four seconds, six seconds, however good that guy was

And then I realized when I was in combat, the only guy who gets to spend that much time takin’ a shot is the first guy who, you know the first guy shooting in the fire fight, so I mean, I never had no eight, 10 seconds to sit there, and aim, and you know, shoot at somebody But that always stuck out in my head later I don’t know why I still don’t really get that saying If you figure that one out let me know What’s up? – Were you scared? – Was I scared? – [Male] Yeah – Everybody gets scared It’s, that movie 300 said it really well What the hell was the quote? When he says it’s not necessarily fear that grips you, it’s a heightened sense of things You remember that quote in that movie? – Yeah – No – But that’s exactly what it’s like – [Male] What movie? – The 300 – [Male] The Spartans, you know ’em? – Yeah, the Spartans, yeah – [Male] Alright, that’s ridiculous – That’s what he says though He says it’s not fear that grips you, it’s a heightened sense of things And that’s kinda what happens I mean, as soon as like that first explosion goes off, or that first shot goes by, you get like real alert right away, and your training kicks in So I mean, you don’t even really have time to sit there, and get scared, it just kind of kicks in Adrenaline I guess you could say, you know What’s up? – [Male] After your first tour, were you the same when you come back? – Not really, I mean no An experience like that’s gonna change you no matter how hard you try to stay the same I mean, I wouldn’t say I’m like, I mean, I still think of myself as a pretty normal dude, you know, like, but it definitely matures ya, you know It makes you grow up quickly, that’s for sure What’s up? – [Female] Did you have to learn their language? – It’s not, Arabic is not an easy language to learn I just learned little things, like how to say what’s up, and stuff like that, you know – [Female] How do you say that? (speaking foreign language) – And then if you wanna say, not much You say (speaking foreign language), or (speaking foreign language), you know So, what’s up? – [Male] Well my cousin was in the Marines, and you know, she’s a girl She said that like she use to get like punched in the face by the guys Is that like common? Yo, I’m bein’ dead serious, I was talkin’ to her about it last night – Oh, you do a lot of martial arts training Ask her about MCMAP Does she like a green belt, or anything like that? – [Male] I don’t know She did four years too She was away like four or five times – Okay, that’s cool Yeah, you do a lot of martial arts training, and you know, you might have to get punched in the face, you might have to take a blast of OC spray to the face, and then run through like, you know, three green belt instructors, or somethin’ like that Depends on what level of the martial arts program you go through – [Male] How long were you in boot camp for? – It’s just three months, three months of Parris Island, so Anybody ever see Full Metal Jacket? – [Male] Yeah – Yeah, that’s where I went, Parris Island, yeah – Watchin’ the Military Channel, (speaking faintly) – Oh yeah, they got those reality shows now, right? Where they put the, that’s crazy to me We didn’t have that We didn’t have nobody with cameras followin’ us around, but to put that kinda thing on TV, you know, I don’t know, it’s weird Reality TV, military training, I don’t know – [Male] Actually the Military Channel, like they showed a documentaries how– – Oh yeah, oh, okay, now I know what you’re talkin’ about But yeah, no, no, no, I did see a few like military, like they did one on the SEALs It was through like BUDs training, or somethin’ like that, and they followed a whole class through, and I’m like wow, you know I never though that they’d put that on TV What’s up? (audience member speaking faintly) Was I single when I went into the Marines? Yeah, I was (audience member speaking faintly) Negative, nah – [James] If the price is right – Yeah (laughing) Actually, my girlfriend’s in the National Guard actually (people chattering all at once) What’s up? – [James] Y’all we have some more questions Be respectful please – [Female] Travis, in reading the book about a person who was an unwilling participant in a conflict, and now when you’re participating in war, which it was a volunteer kinda experience, although a lot of people maybe go with a lot, for a lot of different reasons Did you see the, do you see a difference in some kinda tone about the whole thing? Because I think the people that are trained here often refuse to go. Do you feel the difference with that? Or any comment on the differences? Or maybe the same as that? – I guess I couldn’t really compare, ’cause I don’t know anybody who was, well actually, let me back step on that a little bit I do so know a few people, who were I guess, you can call it a draft Anybody ever hear of the term stop loss? Anybody know what that means? – [Male] Yeah – It’s kind of what they’re doin’ instead of the draft nowadays A lot of you guys might not know about it Basically guys like me, when I signed up, you sign up for an eight year contract You do four years active duty, four years on what they call inactive ready reserve I’m on that right now for the next,

since I got out in September of ’08, so And I’m a be on that for another two, two and a half years And durin’ that time, durin’ that four year period when you’re done with, you know, four years of active duty, and you’re just at home goin’ to college, or whatever, durin’ that four year time, for whatever reason, if they want to, they can call you back up, and put you on a deployment – [Female] What if you don’t wanna go back? You face the criminal charges of the UCMJ And believe me, that’s a lot more hardcore than civilian laws You don’t wanna go to Leavenworth, not good But yeah, I’ve known a few guys, who you know, one guy in particular, he’s actually, he got re-called He did two tours in Iraq, and they call him up, he’s in Afghanistan right now in Helmand Province I don’t know, I never went there So I guess, I talked him, and I, you know a few times, and I asked him about his outlook on it He says he doesn’t care anymore He’s like, I’m gonna do my one year that they told me to come out here for I’m gonna do the very least to just get by, and then I’m comin’ home, so They do give you like extra pay and stuff like that for it But I guess it’s not the same as the 70s and the late 60s with the draft, so I really couldn’t give you a good comparison for that But the volunteers today, I’ll say this much, are a lot different probably than the volunteers back then as well The volunteers back then don’t have the kind of benefits that we do now I mean, they’re throwin’ all kinds of money at you for enlistment bonuses They give you free college Right now, I mean I’m goin’ to school here on the tax payers dollar I didn’t join ’cause of that, I joined ’cause I wanted to be a career military man In fact, when I graduate, I do plan on goin’ back in as an officer But a lot of guys, you know, they just join up for the free college They join up for, you know whatever benefits, so Volunteers today are not the same volunteers as when those benefits did not exist I’d like to think that there was a lot more honor in what we did back in, you know, the 40s, or the 50s, or the 60s Now the military’s a lot different That’s not to put down the guys who are serving now I mean, the fight we’re fighting now is a lot different from the fight we were fighting back then There’s a lot more opportunities for kids coming out of high school now other than the military as well Although as of lately, that’s kinda changing Go ahead What’s your question? – [Female] In the 40s, and 60s, why do you think there wasn’t volunteers? Like why would people wanna join? – Oh, there’s always gonna be guys who just, you know, wanna be military men There’s a lot more than just me, you know There’s a lot of other – In fact, it’s a career – It’s a career, yeah – [James] And you hope there’s no war It’s not like you wanna go to kill people – Yeah – It’s a career You know, it’s protectin’ the nation (speaking faintly) – Pretty much I didn’t join up to go off to the Middle East For me, I joined up to serve my country and to defend it, and if need be, and if I had to be called upon, I would go, you know So, that’s kinda my outlook Go ahead Who’s got the question? Go ahead (audience member speaking faintly) Oh yeah, I did, actually I got a, like you’re talkin’ about personal effects, right? Just like little stuff from home, and things like that? – [Female] Yes – Yeah, I got one of ’em here I gotta find it (people chattering) Hope it’s in here There, here we go I use to, could rock this in my helmet I don’t know, it’s just a very small folded up American flag I use to keep that with me I don’t even remember where I got it from, but I don’t know, I thought it was cool, so I use to wear it in my helmet I guess you can call that imperialistic or patriotic depending on how you look at that, but I use to like it Go ahead – [Female] Is it hot out there, I just– (laughing) – Yeah, it was really hot, really hot I mean durin’ the summer months when I was there in July, the hottest I’d seen it out there, and this was when we were sittin’ in the back of a cargo plane with, you know, the fuel, and the exhaust, and the engine right there, but my friend had a digital thermometer, and we clocked it at 151, so (audience members all chatting at once) Be on an average day where you were doin’ foot patrol on the bank of the Euphrates River in the summer, it’d get up to about 130, 135 Mind you, you got a 60 pound flack jacket on you, a helmet, all this other stuff, it’s hot

– [Female] You wouldn’t like– – Well, they make sure that you drink a lot of water, you hydrate, you gotta also take in a lot of electrolytes, salt – [James] And salt, that was good – ‘Cause if you urinate too frequently, you’re gonna flush all the electrolytes out of your system, and you’re just in danger of becomin’ a heat casualty as if you weren’t drinkin’ water the whole time at all, so Electrolytes are important, salt, stuff like that, add salt to your food Go ahead – [Male] Did you, did they make you practice the end of days of the thing, just like– – Say again (audience member speaking faintly) – The– – [Male] Last day, like you put it through your nose, and pull it down your throat (audience member speaking faintly) – What is it, the M– (audience member mumbling) – [Male] They’re lookin’ at you (speaking faintly) practice the MK too Put it through your nose – What do you put through your nose? (laughing) – [Male] NPA – The MPA? What does that stand for? – [Male] Nasal something – Nasal pharyngealin’? Oh, no, that’s different That’s, I mean, I did do that, ’cause I had to go through’ combat lifesaver course What he’s talkin’ about is somethin’ you’re supposed to use on an unconscious victim We trained on each other consciously But it’s to create an open airway in the throat If anybody’s lookin’ to go pre med, you’ll probably find about this later But it’s a tube that, I think it comes in 12 and 14 gauge, I forget, but you’re supposed to lube it up You can’t always do that But you insert it through the nose, and it goes through your nasal cavity, out into the back of your mouth, and it creates an airway in case your, you know, you’re unconscious, and your throat gets lodged, and you don’t have time to do the Heimlich maneuver, and all that stuff, so Yeah, that was fun Thanks for bringin’ that memory back – Did you throw up? – Huh? – [Male] Did you throw up? – No, but I did have a strong after taste of lube in the back of my throat for about a day or two That sucked, I’m not gonna lie Not the worst thing I’d had to deal with though Go ahead – [Male] My brother was in Iraq for like nine months And he said like every day you have to take like the heat, because of the heat you have to drink like all this, five gallons of water a day – Oh yeah, a lot of water I don’t know how many gallons I drank a day, but I mean, we had like this thing, he ever tell you about camel backs, like those little– yeah, so like I must a drank like six to eight of those a day, however much that is, you know, so Yeah, a lot of water though Go ahead professor – I have a question Since you were over there riskin’ your life, did they let you have beer over there? – Nope, actually on the Marine Corp birthday, we did get two beers But– – [James] On the Marine Corp birthday? – On the Marine Corp birthday – Not to have your own – No, not my own Nah, they flow out like pallets of this stuff, and everybody gets to have two That’s on the big bases anyway If you’re in the field, and you’re in the forward, you get like an MRE pound cake, that you put an inverted cigarette in, and that’s your birthday cake for the birthday – [Male] You got cigarettes there? – What’s up? – [Male] You get cigarettes over there? – Oh yeah, yeah (audience members chattering all at once) I quit smokin’ though as of a year ago Gave that up, very proud of that – [Male] What kind of cigarette you smoke? – I use to be a cowboy killer man, reds – [Male] Yeah (audience members chattering all together) – Yeah, but that stuffs no good for you, I recommend quitting I’m sure you guys didn’t start too long ago And it’s gettin’ expensive, especially here – I have a question – [Female] If you’ve got your hand raised, respond – Go ahead (audience member speaking faintly) Hey, could you guys quiet down for a second, I’m tryin’ to hear this question What’s up? (audience member speaking faintly) Oh (audience member speaking faintly) Oh, depends, depends what branch you go into I would say my training, it was pretty rough It was– – Marines like the hardest (speaking faintly) – I don’t wanna put down any of the other branches by saying anything, but the Marine Corp’s training is pretty rigorous If, I mean, they, there’s the saying that every Marine is a rifleman, so I mean, they train you that way durin’ your initial training, afterwards, you go onto your job specialty schools But yeah, the Marine Corp training’s pretty rigorous It’s not easy They hold very high standards – [Male] You mean like (speaking faintly) – Yeah, the initial basic training is three months, then you go onto either the School of Infantry, or Marine Combat Training, that’ll be about two months, and then you go onto your MOS school, would could be anywhere from two months to a year and a half, depending on what your field specialty is, so depends Go ahead, you have a question? (audience member speaking faintly) Excuse me you guys Go ahead – [Female] What any one (speaking faintly) – I don’t know, I just always wanted to join the military since I was a little kid I did a lot of research on all the branches before I went in, and thought the Marines

was the best choice for me So yeah, that’s why (audience member speaking faintly) No, not one – [Female] Not one – Not one regret Maybe that I oughta paid a little bit better attention in high school I’d be doin’ a little bit better now, but that’s about it – [James] You’re doin’ fine – I’m doin’ alright, maybe in English, not math – [James] Oh really? – Yeah – What, Marine Corp lawyer? – Yeah, pre-cals no joke – [Male] No joke – Yeah, go ahead, you got another one? – [Male] I got two questions – Okay – [Male] You don’t get anywhere near (speaking faintly) – Pendleton? That’s where I was – [Male] Oh you were? – Yep, Camp Pendleton, 6-2 area, North side of the base – [Male] Oh – [Male] I asked about captain of base camp, but– – Camp? (audience member speaking faintly) Bedford? – [Male] No, it wasn’t Bedford – Camp Leatherneck? – [Male] They did the same type of things that you did Like they had to drive around during days, and had this, look out for road side bombs Are they called ECP, (speaking faintly)? – Are they called what? – [Male] What were they called, inside bombers? – IEDs? – [Male] IEDs – Yeah, yeah, that stands for improvised explosive device, and it comes in many different shapes, sizes, and forms – [Male] I know it would, like I see (speaking faintly) – How heavy the– – [Male] Can I feel it? – Oh yeah, sure (people chattering) – [Male] Talkin’ about the magazine – Oh, the magazine Well it’s got nothin’ in it It’s pretty light – [Male] It’s light? – Yeah Anybody else? Any other questions? You got my brain to pick at for the next few minutes, so I mean, before you guys go further into the book, if there’s anything else (audience member speaking faintly) What’s up? – [Male] How much do you bench? – How much do I bench? Actually, I haven’t been in the gym in a while I work out at home, but when I was at my prime, probably about 245 That was a little while ago though, so I don’t know I don’t know what it is now Alright, I guess if you guys don’t got anything else for me, I don’t really got much else for you – One more question – One more question? – Yeah, and then, you know – Where’s that? – Sshh, listen up please – Go ahead – [Female] Do you see anything for yourself other than (speaking faintly)? – Say again – [Female] Do you see anything else for yourself (speaking faintly)? – Well I’m a do, I already got four years invested into the military system, so I’m a do my last 16, get out with a 20 year pension with the health benefits, and the 50% top pay, and then I’m probably gonna go into the field of forensics And I plan on movin’ back out to California, that’s where I’m goin’ for with my degrees, is forensic science, so It’s a hard program, if anybody tries goin’ for that It sucks Alright, well forget– – oh, I got one – Alright, one more, go ahead – Yeah, you got a Marine Corp tattoo by any chance? Yeah – I think we all do (laughing) Alright guys, this was a pleasure talkin’ to you I hope you guys, you know, got some stuff out of this for the book, so thank you Thank you for you time (audience members applauding) – Yeah, I wanna thank Travis very much for coming here, and for sharing his experience with us