All I can say after reading this book is that I am shocked. I am shocked by the way the soldiers were treated in the hospital. I am shocked by the horrible scenes of war and in the hospital Kovic describes. I think this is the first author I have read who has been so incredibly honest about his war experience. Kovic wanted readers to know the truth, not sugar-coating anything. Some things Kovic described were things I could not even imagine. For example, the Korean man who had no legs and only one arm who was now “this slab of meat swinging one arm crazily in the air.” (Page 35) Another scene that really shocked me was the “young boy cupping his intestines with his hands” who was on the plane leaving Vietnam for the hospital. (Page 31)
The way the soldiers were treated in the hospital angered me. Doctors and nurses were discussing football while there were soldiers all around them bleeding, screaming in pain, and slowly dying. First of all, how could they possible think of football or anything but medicine at a time like that?? How could the doctors and nurses not be doing all they could to help the wounded men? The medical staff never seemed to be sympathetic to the soldiers’ situations. When men were screaming in pain, the only thing a nurse could manage to say was “shut up.” When the injured baby was screaming, the only thing anyone ever did was to tell the baby to be quiet. I mean, this is a baby, who does not know any better and is injured, and no one was willing to care for him?? It’s unbelievable to me.
Another thing that bothered me about the hospitals was how the soldiers were made to clean up every morning and had “reveille at six o’clock in the morning.” (Page 43) Then the soldiers had to clean up the ward every morning as well as make their beds among other chores. This is a hospital, so where are the orderlies or even nurses?? That is their job, not the patient’s job. Even men who had amputated limbs had to do chores. . . . . I have no words to describe my feelings towards that. Through studying previous wars, I had learned that hospital care was not the best for veterans, but the care that Kovic describes is not even care. The place he was at was the farthest thing from a hospital. The way Kovic was given a shower was awful. The orderly simply placed him in the shower and let him sit there for a while. Then other times he was “hosed down.” These soldiers were human beings, but were treated like useless objects.
Reading about Kovic’s emotional state was so depressing. He had no idea why he had to endure all this pain and suffering. He thought maybe it was a “punishment for killing the corporal and the children.” Kovic was in such a confused state, not knowing what he had done to deserve that injury. He was helpless after the war, with an injury that made him have to rely on others. He was 21 years old and had an injury that affected the rest of his life . . . he would never experience a normal life. He would never enjoy the things most people would, which was one of the most depressing parts. Kovic felt ashamed and embarrassed due to the fact he was paralyzed. He wanted to die, but knew he was lucky to be alive at the same time. He was used to being this strong, young, self-sufficient Marine, but had no idea what or who he was after his injury. It must have been embarrassing for him to have his family see him in a state like that. I also felt so bad for his family, that they had to deal with the heartache of seeing their son like that. That is something no family should have to experience.
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