Vietnam War Connections

As an introduction to the 2010 Vietnam War Challenge, we asked that Shannon of After the Fire Came a Gentle Whisper to explain what Vietnam War literature has meant to her and why she feels such a deep connection with it.  We hope that you will check out her thoughts on the war and its literature and what it has spurred within her.  Please welcome Shannon and check out her blog, if you haven’t already!

I have felt a deep connection to the Vietnam War since I was on the cusp of adolescence, yet I have never, until very recently, taken the time to really stop and look this affinity square in the face and ask of it, “What are you doing here in my life? Why do you exist at all?”

It would be far too obvious an answer that life homeschooling six children is very much like war.   Rather, what I have begun to believe is that Vietnam War literature embodies many of the muddled experiences and feelings that seem to be part of the emotional DNA of my generation, particularly for those like me who grew up in middle class suburbia.

We were encouraged to sop up experiences, to do well in school, to achieve and achieve some more. We were taught that if we bought the right things, dressed the right way, and consumed the right (never-ending) goods and services that we’d find contentment, fulfillment, and lives pregnant with meaning.  Yet as we have become adults, mostly we have found restlessness, emptiness, and mounting debts incurred from trying to buy our way to success.

Like the Vietnam War, my generation began with what we presumed was clarity about our goals and our means for achieving these goals.  We were meant to do better, and to have more than our parents.  We were willing to spend whatever it would take to bring about our success.  Things were very black and white.  However, as in Vietnam, things for my generation went seriously astray when it turned out that these goals were not only unachievable, but the methods we were using to bring them about were actually destructive to the very essence of our beings. In both cases rather than leading to victory, our efforts actually became the root cause of our dissipation and our overwhelming sense of purposelessness.

In Vietnam War literature, there is often a raw and sometimes a brutal honesty about the depths of personal confusion and desperation experienced when external measures of worth, value, and purpose prove to be useless at best, complete lies at worst. We recognize in the stories of others the dark places in ourselves. We come closer to admitting that we are so much the same; we just live in different circumstances.

This is why I feel that Vietnam tugs so strongly at my soul. Once we admit that we are all lost, that we have no way home, then we can begin to unearth the real story of our lives.  Once we acknowledge our vulnerability, then we can be stretched to the point where change might begin.  Once we have seen the worst in ourselves, then we can forge ahead with courage to work like hell and become our best selves.

Thanks Shannon for sharing your thoughts.  If you haven’t joined the 2010 Vietnam War Reading Challenge yet, what’s stopping you?  Expand your reading and join us for a fun year of war-related reading, discussion, and reviews.


  1. Thanks for this very personal, very heartfelt testimony. You are raising six kids who are certainly learning different values from those that were transmitted to your contemporaries,


  2. In my experiences of reading about the Vietnam War, the stories are raw and honest, just like you said. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us and our readers.

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