I found the short story thought-provoking. The story teller tells of Lt. Cross, an army soldier fighting in Vietnam. Lt. Cross had been seeing a girl called Martha before he was sent to fight in Vietnam. She has written to him in a quite innocent manner, but Lt. Cross reads a lot into his past relationship and surmises that he loves Martha and poses questions inside his mind such as if Martha has had sex with anyone yet. He keeps of picture of Martha with him at all times. My thought on this are that Lt. Cross is in an emotionally unstable environment. He longs for love, normality, companionship, stability. He imagines the degree of the relationship as a safety mechanism to help him get through the fear and instability he has been thrust into. As the title of the story states, the story teller tells of things that various soldiers carry with them-many of which are not necessary for the war but bring that reminder that each belongs and has a place elsewhere -a place each holds on to and longs for.Lt. Cross carries Martha’s photograph and his own written feelings for Martha. One other soldier (Lavender) carries a poncho as well as sedatives, likely to cope with the stress while Kiowa carries a large chopping blade, a New Testament and a pair of moccasin comfort shoes. Another (Dobbins) pack more food rations than he needs as well as a machine gun and his absent girlfriend’s pantyhose. One soldier (Jensen) brings health items for keeping and feeling clean- soap, vitamins, tooth floss, foot powder. Another (Booker), a diary (perhaps to keep order and make sense of it all) and yet another (sanders) carries a metal knuckle-duster and condoms! Quite the contrast in personalities and the reader tries to imagine the setting and the mental states of each soldier. Kiley comes over as practical and with the ability to compartmentalize, carrying M&Ms, comics, brandy and first aid supplies. These are all very important items to each soldier and the author (O’ Brien) relates the personalities of each soldier to the items that they carry. Fear, insecurity, instability – all items that attempt to remedy the difficulties as each man sees them.Lavender’s poncho is a carried item that the other soldiers ultimately carry when they use it to transport his Corpse. An interesting turn.O’ Brien, over the course of the story, drip-feeds many more items carried by the men. He uses the word “humps” when he describes the almost voluminous number of photographs. This is an intriguing insight into the human mind and individual needs – many things so needlessly carried and yet, so necessary to allow a feeling of the way life really is waiting back home. Of course, Lt. Cross has a more imaginative story, inventing a whole relationship that is primarily unilateral. Lt. Cross’ thoughts are frequently sexual, wishing that Martha had lost her virginity to him, even through unrequited forceful advances that he wishes he had made in dates gone by.This story portrays the breadth of human needs and defense mechanisms. How humans cope, what keeps us from breaking down. A very insightful read.


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