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They carried P-38 can openers and heat tabs, watches and dog tags, insect
repellent, gum, cigarettes, Zippo lighters, salt tablets, compress bandages,
ponchos, Kool-Aid, two or three canteens of water, iodine tablets, sterno,
LRRP-rations, and C-rations stuffed in socks.

They carried standard fatigues, jungle fatigues, jungle boots, bush hats,
flak jackets and steel pots.

They carried the M-16, trip flares and Claymore mines, M-60 machine guns,
M-79 grenade launchers, M-14's, CAR-15's, Stoners, Swedish K's, 66mm
LAWS, shotguns, .45 caliber pistols, silencers, the sound of bullets,
rockets, and choppers, and sometimes the sound of silence.

They carried C-4 plastic explosives, an assortment of hand grenades, PRC-25
radios with 25 foot whip antennas and their heavy batteries, knives and
machetes.

Some carried napalm, CBU's and large bombs; some risked their lives to
rescue others.

Some escaped the fear, but dealt with the death and damage. Some made very
hard decisions, and some just tried to survive.

They carried malaria, dysentery, ringworms and leeches.

They carried the land itself as it hardened on their boots.

They carried stationery, pencils, and pictures of their loved ones - real
and imagined.

They carried love for people in the real world and love for one another.

And sometimes they disguised that love:
"Don't mean nothin'!"

They carried memories.

For the most part, they carried themselves with poise
and a kind of dignity.

Now and then, there were times when panic set in, and people squealed or
wanted to, but couldn't; when they twitched and made moaning sounds and
covered their heads and said "Dear God" and hugged the earth and fired their
weapons blindly and cringed and begged for the noise to stop and went wild
and made promises to themselves and God and their parents, hoping not to
die.

They carried the traditions of the United States military, and memories and
images of those who served before them.

They carried grief, terror, longing and their reputations.

They carried the soldier's greatest fear: the embarrassment of dishonor.

They crawled into tunnels, walked point, and advanced under fire, so as not
to die of embarrassment.

They were afraid of dying, but too afraid to show it.

They carried the emotional baggage of men and women who might die at any
moment.

They carried the weight of the world and the weight of every free citizen of
America.

And they carried each other.


Excerpt From: The Things They Carried"
By "Tim O'Brien"