As a former president once said ” And so, my fellow Americans ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. Patriotism is found in every country, but it’s the occupants of that country that have patriotism towards their own. This loyalty is seen in both “How to Tell a True War Story” and “Soldiers Home”. Patriotism to me is one’s natural right to show pride in being an American. Patriotism exists on different levels when taking into consideration people’s perspective on war.
In comparing these two short stories the similarities were evident and stuck out like a sore thumb. The first similarity that I had encountered was that both stories gave the impression that previous to war the main characters had an enormous sense of patriotism. This is why they went to join the military. They wanted to fight for their country, and if they were willing to die for it Krebs, the main character in “Soldiers Home”, had a nationalistic view before the World War I, and he believed that Americans should fight to save the freedoms of the United States. In “How to Tell a True War Story” the main character is portrayed as a person who had a lot of loyalty to America prior the Vietnam War because he has the emotion of a true patriot. Another similarity between these two stories is that the main characters were changed by the sight and horrific events of war. For example, Krebs could not even pray with his mother at the end of the story because he has lost faith in God. These events, such as, watching someone get their head blown off, or catching sight of one of your friends lungs turn into liquid because of mustard gas, changed their perception of war. This would definitely change my view of patriotism for one’s country.
Also, the narrator in “How to Tell a True War Story” points out that no one wants to listen to the real truth. This is emphasized because no one wants to hear the truth about war. The characters in both stories feel that war is an awful thing, and no one will understand that unless it is seen first hand. In addition, another similarity would be that each of the characters, Krebs and the narrator, feel that they have to lie because no one wants to hear the truth. For example, when Krebs wanted to tell a story at the neighborhood bar, no one wants to hear the truth. They want to hear the glorified lies that the other veterans tell. The narrator says, ” His town had heard too many atrocity stories to be thrilled by actualities” this leaves Krebs isolated from releasing his emotions and feelings. Also, in “How to Tell a True War Story” the narrator tells the same story about a soldier, Curt Lemon, who is blown up by a booby trapped mine three times to illustrate that no one wants to hear the truth because no one will listen to the real story. So in order for the soldiers to seem patriotic in their stories they have to make up fallacies about their stories. These similarities are evident throughout the short stories.
The first contrasting material I read upon is the difference in patriotism after the war between Krebs, in “Soldiers Home”, and the main character in, “How to Tell a True War Story”. The sense of patriotism can still be found in Krebs, however, the narrator of “How to Tell a True War Story,”doesn’t seem to have any patriotism at all. In “How to Tell a True War Story” the narrator had a sense of patriotism prior to the war, but now after seeing the appalling acts of cruelty of war he had left his patriotism in Vietnam never to even look back on it again. An example of his lost sense of patriotism is the writing of the letter to Curt Lemmon’s sister, which there was no reply to.
This seemed to upset Ratty, the character who wrote the letter, because he put his heart and soul into it and got no response from his sister. The mention of the letter and why it got no reply could only mean that the sister didn’t want to hear the truth about how her brother died. She doesn’t want to hear her brother was playing catch with smoke grenades and died stepping on a mine. She wants to hear how he died in battle honorably. This is why when on receipt of the letter she read it and put it away never to look at it again. Now, in “Soldiers Home” Krebs still seems to have his patriotism.
One example of this is the picture he carries along with him of him, a fellow soldier, and a German girl. This little picture that he carries around with him shows that his pride is still intact and will never cease. This sense of patriotism will last in Krebs for eternity, but in a sad way his life will never be the same. In addition, when Krebs came home from World War I, two years after it had ended, there was no celebration, no welcome home, and most of all no patriotism in any Americans. For example, a recent event that occurred almost two years ago shows that patriotism does subside after time moves on. The event that I am talking about is the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
The point I am trying to make is that a month after it happened I saw every house waving an American flag, cars with flags on them, a real sense of patriotism swept across a nation. However, now, a year and a half later I see fewer and fewer flags and patriotic symbolism. It is so strange how a nation in not more than two years, forgets their patriotism. This is why Krebs is upset at the nation he fought for and received no hero’s welcome. People were just overwhelmed by hearing stories about the war because they have heard enough from every other soldier. The main difference I draw from these examples is the loss of patriotism by soldiers and the American public.
In conclusion, both soldiers came home with a different sense of patriotism because of their levels of experience, and the American public has a different sense of patriotism due to their relative factors. Patriotism, is it worth having? This is a question that must be answered by each individual American. Judge your patriotism with the soldier’s perspective, and what they see in combat everyday. A quote by Wilfred Owen sums up patriotism in a nut shell “Dulce et decorum est pr patria mori”, which means “Is it sweet and fitting to die for one’s country?