Tim O’Brien Student Reflection

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Tim O’Brien Student Reflection

Eliza Wood

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What is the most inspiring or influential thing Tim O’Brien said during his presentation?

I believe the most influential thing that Tim O’Brien said during his presentation was, “If you believe in war, go to it.” Don’t force other people and their loved ones to do what you think is right. When you contemplate about war and soldiers, you never think about them being a bunch of young men, fresh out of high school but that’s the truth of it, most were not even in their twenties yet. During his presentation, Tim talked about the baby water buffalo story. Reading his book as a highschool student, I couldn’t understand how the baby water buffalo had become the focus of their emotional frustration, yet Tim had made me realize things are always more complicated than they seem.

“This world has a way of sanitizing the bad.” It was a bad day for a group of boys 18 through 23 who have been sent too another country to fight against people who were sometimes, most times even younger, fighting for something they don’t understand and they are terrified to walk because they could die by any step, watching the men you’re with turn into “slush.” Friends could be gone within a blink of an eye. O’Brien also referenced a story about a friend who stepped on a mine and his body is in slush like bits scattered in a tree and other landscape. Him, and a few of his fellow soldiers, had to gather up as much of the body as possible to send back to the boys mother. He used his mother as an example of how war never truly ends until the loved ones of that war have died as well, saying how she wakes up still to this day in the middle of the night crying out for her baby.

What are some of the takeaways that come to mind when thinking about Tim’s keynote presentation?  

What I took from this presentation is that if you have never been to war and experienced it you shouldn’t praise it and make it glorify. War is a compilation of heroic bravery, terrible violence, and sacrifice. War is never ending, it doesn’t end when a piece of paper is signed declaring peace. The acts of the war live on through people affected by it. Dead soldiers may suffer no more but the families, friends, even fellow coworkers or neighbors are continuously affected by the war. “Think before you speak,” and overused term now it seems that is never actually used. “Thank you for your service,” O’Brien explained can be taken as “thank you for killing all those people and committing awful things” to a soldier. Some soldiers hide what they have been through because it’s hard to come to face with sometimes.

What are your thoughts on War from his personal experiences?

My thoughts on the war from his personal experiences is that you should never forget the bad about war. “War should be called people killing, including children.” War is a word we use to make the reality sound better, more simple. Tim said that society has a way of sanitizing the bad, coming up with other words like war. “War doesn’t end when peace treaties are signed,” it lives on in the people affected by the war. “The dead no longer suffer,” but the relatives and loved ones are affected until they die.

Disclaimer: All quotes are paraphrased.