When it comes to the subject of war, no two experiences are the same. Each individual leaves the battlefield having felt different feelings. They carry baggage home with them that only they can deal with because only they understand what they are going through. Two good examples of come from a comparison of Tim O’Brien’s, “Pro Patria,” and Brian Mockenhaupt’s, “I Miss Iraq. I miss my gun. I miss my War.”
O’Brien’s chapter from his novel provides an almost charming backdrop prior to O’Brien’s enlistment. He has a happy childhood, punctuated with trips to the ice skating rink and local root beer float shop. All the while, he hears stories from old war veterans that eventually inspire an interest within him to become inspired in politics. He began reading Plato, and eventually was drafted during the Vietnam War. Despite the stories of glory he had heard, he developed a need for knowledge, and this quest led him to understand the war was not worth his efforts. O’Brien saw the war as evil, but after taking so much from his community and his country, wondered if he did not owe something more to his country than a cocky, college-kid attitude. He attempted to reconcile his inner struggle, but this eventually exhausts him and he reports to the depot to become a soldier. Essentially, O’Brien never believes in the war or his actions as a soldier.
In contrast, Mockenhaupt comes off as a bloodthirsty psychopath who attempts to disguise his bloodlust as a love for country. Specifically, he states, “But war twists and shifts the landmarks by which we navigate our lives, casting light on darkened areas that for many people remain forever unexplored. And once those darkened spaces are lit, they become part of us.” Fundamentally, he attempts to explain how he misses the power to lord over a weaker population because he has the bigger gun. Few people claim to miss war, and only admit that they have become used to its routine. They wish to break the routine, and live a normal life. Mockenhaupt evidently enjoyed the power he was afforded to exercise over others. Despite the horror of war, he lacked the enthusiasm to find any other hobbies, and so made patrolling in Iraq his hobby. After reading his excerpt, I would consider giving him a gun dangerous. He almost fetishizes the killing of women and children and is so disillusioned that he thought occupying another nation would be okay to the native population. War, to Mockenhaupt is a justified effort as long as he has the bigger gun, whereas O’Brien was willing to look into the philosophy of human life.
In sum, O’Brien is a humanist, while Mockenhaupt is a hollow human shell. While there are many different experiences to be had at war, there is something to be said for mental deficiencies. O’Brien looked inside himself, as well as inside the war effort, before deciding what was just. Mockenhaupt merely liked holding a gun and feeling powerful. Though both men contributed to war efforts, their feelings about taking lives could not have been more different.