Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong

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Who Am I?

Close your eyes and imagine a backdrop of densely packed trees in shades of olive and emerald green, a military supply helicopter on the helipad, blades swooshing around stirring up dust, and out steps a beautiful, young, blonde girl. Right in the middle of war-torn Vietnam, at the Tra Bong outpost, Mary Anne Bell arrives at the request of her boyfriend. When first reading “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong,” by Tim O’Brien, one might believe it is a love story turned sour, but on closer inspection, it is apparent that this story is about much more than that. This story is about the loss of innocence, personal evolution, and the attempt to define one’s self. A bit tired and out-of-place, a young Mary Anne steps off a helicopter and into Nam. A war is raging beyond the concertina wire, and she is oblivious to the enormous magnitude of the situation. Mary Anne is a naive, barely 17 year old girl. She is cheerful, wide-eyed, and inquisitive all rolled up into one bundle. She is fresh out of high school with no life experience and no idea of how the world works; how it can tilt and sour one’s perspective. In the beginning, Mary Anne is very fascinated by the country, the culture, and the people. She sees Nam through untainted curious eyes, wanting to experience the customs and feel the culture. She probes the soldiers at the outpost with many questions and listens intently to their answers, consuming all the information given. She learns about claymore mines, trip wires, how to assemble and disassemble an M-16 machine gun, as well as how to cook over a can of Sterno. Like a sponge, she soaks up all the knowledge. She even learns the language; her thought is to take advantage of her situation and learn as much as possible while in Nam. Believing that the locals are safe, ordinary people, Mary Ann wants to venture to a close-by village to interact with them. This shows just how wet behind the ears she is; Mary Anne does not see the threat or danger in her...
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