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If I Die in a Combat Zone

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If I Die in a Combat Zone
“It was no decision, no chain of ideas or reasons, that steered me into the war. It was an intellectual and physical stand-off, and I did not have the energy to see it to an end”(O’Brien 22). This nearly sums up Tim O’Brien’s If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home. In O’Brien’s autobiographical novel of his grueling tour and duty during the Vietnam War, we constantly see him struggle with his moral and ethical beliefs while participating in a war he believes is unjust, clearly becoming the main theme of this work, along with courage and the meaning of it to Tim.

Tim is very strong in his belief that the war is not right. He discusses this with many people searching for answers while deciding whether or not he would dodge the draft and flee to Canada. Knowing the consequences he would face and bring upon his family, he makes the decision to go to basic training. While is basic training, he puts together a thorough plan and budget to desert the US Army by fleeing from Canada to Norway. Unable to build the courage to desert the Army, he goes in search of guidance through the Army and makes appointments to meet with the Army Chaplain and Battalion Commander. He gets none, they believe he is just a young soldier afraid of dying and do not understand or agree with his beliefs at all. This is when Tim becomes aware of the fact that the US military does not provide moral counsel for its soldiers on the frontlines, the Army only intends to produce infantrymen that do not ask why or who they kill, nor demand to understand the effects it may have on their physical or mental health. There’s an example of this when O’Brien becomes involved in the war and begins to struggle with rage against the Vietnamese as he witnesses one after another of his fellow soldiers die. Though being outraged with his enemy, he realizes that reacting in vengeance upon villagers is morally wrong.

O’Brien also closely examines the meaning of courage during basic training and his

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