Tim O'Brien - Vietnam veteran and acclaimed author of "The Things They Carried" - joins us for a full hour

The Dana & Parks Podcast
Wednesday, October 11th
This interview - by far - is the most requested Podcast from listeners we have ever had.  Our sincerest thanks to author and Vietnam veteran Tim O'Brien.   We could sit and listen to him speak about his experiences for hours. - Dana

Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Listening to the date and parks podcast at a beautiful Wednesday evening as we'll see your temperatures cooling. Back into the fifties overnight lows eventually dipped down to about 47 degrees. We may be waking up to some ball to start up your Thursday so keep that in mind Mike Gilbert of the slower commute on Thursday morning otherwise. More sunshine for the afternoon in high temperatures. In the lower to middle seventies. From Jennifer solar meteorologist Bob Miller came to do right now 64 downtown at 63 you know late. It's 64 at your official weather station. I'm will stairs stay connected with news 981 KM BZ and KM BZ dot com. I'm going to be honest as we begin this segment. I'm humbled. Honored. I had no idea the size. Of the celebrity that we were going to be bringing him to show this hour. A Dana had said to me about a week ago. You have to check this book out. And she often does he's run don't walk segment's users are familiar with. And she scissors is book out by a guy named Tim O'Brien it's historical fiction called the things they carried. And I never heard the book. And I'd never heard of the man. Bomb apparently I'm the only one. Prominent. But when word got out that we're gonna have Tim O'Brien in studio. Talk about this book that was written twenty some odd years ago. That has received newfound attention because of the Vietnam series that has attracted everyone's attention on PBS. Found out I was honored to have somebody in studio accuse her. Well thank you and as a privilege and honor to have you thanks for joining us Tim O'Brien joins us in studio of the author of the book of things. They care. Mister Bryant it's an honor to have you here and I I don't know that we've ever spoken about Vietnam on our program there hasn't been a reason to do so until now and we've invited our veterans. Who are listening to call in if they wanna ask you questions or talk to you about the book. What is it like you penned this in 1990. What is it like to have an entire new generation of people now. Finding this this book is. Kansas city's big read right now they have asked everyone all over the metropolitan area to pick up your book again. Well. Every rider wants to be read about anything else Morton money here on the other things can happen. So it's quite wonderful the things he carried is taught in many many colleges around the country end and high schools. And this this kind of new burst of life because of Canon lenses documentary on PBS. Ads readers I didn't have before and high school students and college students. And sort of of people interested in the subject matter Vietnam. People historians and people would ban there and so on. So it's a brand new the breath of life for the book and if you don't as a writer you don't write for yourself. Entirely partly due back at you right to communicate and grab people by the collar and say here's here's what men went through 45 years ago. You're the disappointments. Lost war. Here the struggles we went through to just endured a land mines and snipers. Poverty. And jungles and rice paddies. In a war that was very very unpopular. You're right about the smell. And to taste. The tastes and it is so vivid to me and one of the questions I know a lot of people basses but I knew that this party. Is why not right what actually happened. Verses. A wonderful historical. Fictional account of what happened because I cannot believe this isn't true. I've read it and I can't believe it's not true it's so true in my mind. Then you wanna minter I want it to be true that some horrible thing to say to want to know these men who have gone through that because I know that you did so. That's that was the goal Dana's sales arena the goal is to write a book that was fiction. But to make it feel to their reader and it could've really happened. Make the readers think did this actually happened. Even though on the cover says or affection. Write a book that. It was a challenge to me so I use my own name for example as a character in the book I dedicate the book to the characters. In the book. As a way of trying to make the reader think this could be real and make it feels that it's actually happening. As their reading it. That that the pace you mentioned as a taste I really vividly remember that part is true. Shipment that was a taste of fear. And to me it tasted like lemonade something very fruity sour the same time that would rise of from your throat. And who knew them mucus in your mouth. The smells of Vietnam. Are reported in the book just design smelled them smile of mildew and busting us. Poverty. That this smoke coming from the fires in the little villages we go through scared out never mind all the time. In my area of operations in Vietnam the main enemy it was not. Human beings to main enemy who is land mines. And see 80% of our casualties. Came from minds of all sorts of little bitty things we'd call told paupers. They're great big rig artillery rounds that would he'll blow away the studio. And everything in between. And so kind of frustration. Builds up and a soldier when you can't. Unlike in the movies where you concede the enemy. You can't shoot back pedal and get angry frustrated legs are blown off guys and his people here friends die. And then on top of that of course is the unpopularity of the war. 20 what's what's what's the purpose of all this. In World War II for example we were headed somewhere under for Berlin are headed for Tokyo. But in Vietnam we were headed anywhere except in circles we go to a village we search committee in my diet some and mightn't it wounded. And then you leave the village and come back two weeks later a month later and do at all there was no sense of year going somewhere and get a victory. We didn't. Unlike I think in world war two and like and unlike in their early days of Vietnam we didn't even consider victory that was out of the question from an. Win the war he never fought for victory. In my opinion and think about it. Wasn't he wasn't there was no way to win we could even find the enemy. They found us when it was to their advantage. We didn't hold ground usually end here real estate. You'll hold he'll take water canal annual hole after you you know won the battles there. On hamburger hill I don't know 173 men died in Vietnam and few hours later. After. Terrible 22 day battle. They just left the left field. So either there was a sense of of purpose listeners behind it all it is to them military's adds if we didn't feel we were accomplishing. Except maybe making more enemies. Because. Children died. Old ladies died. And eight on hits it doesn't you know just killed yet calm and VA it kills whatever is around. And and in our own cases in infantry company we would call in helicopters and cobras and gun ships in artillery. And village we just fry. I and granted there may have been some dead enemy soldiers and there but when we swept through it there'd be dead civilians. And if you're the father of one of those dead civilians or the mother. But the sister and a brother you're not going to be very happy. And that happened a lot civilian casualties because we couldn't there were no uniforms. You couldn't distinguish friend from foe. You mean they knew the land and Edward Hyde we did we were. We were strangers and foreigners in the country mr. Brian have have veterans said that this book was. Cathartic. To read and for you was it cathartic to right. Of the first part of it yet I get a little lot of mail not just from Vietnam veterans but I get a lot of mail and emails from. Current patterns Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of whom carried it here the Booker around them. Because what's what's happening now they tell me is very much like the war I went through. Land mines for example they have a new name in I ED's. Improvised explosive devices but at the same thing. And every and the only news pick up a newspaper read news you know on roadside bomb today killed seven. Soldiers outside Baghdad. And unlike. Immediately my friends forty years ago there isn't. Here's an accompanying bitterness comes when that happened you can't shoot back there's nothing issued back. No uniforms over there so yeah I hear a lot of it a lot of letters. And emails all the get my email address I don't know that they get it. Tend. And it's not just of veterans it's also more importantly I think. It's those children. Veterans and a wives. Lovers and fathers in the mothers who. So a pretty much would gain and I were talking about before we went on the air they saved my son or my father will not talk about it. But at least now having read your book I know something of when he went through. That he staying silent about and I kinda know why he doesn't talk about it it's too painful. O'Brien is joining Zune studio he is in Kansas City this week. At the Kansas City library author of the book the things they carried written 27 years ago. You've probably read it in high school or in college in his back on the best seller list. Tim O'Brien we're taking your calls your comments and just on 5767798. Dinner right rob Babcock comes up parks and Canadian music. Listening to the date and parks podcast. But the one that you be speaking about mark Kansas City library plaza branch at 630 tomorrow night nor its arsenal. Is the things they carried written 27. Years ago. Vietnam veteran it is historical fiction. And as Dana points out you read this book in you you and your. So you're so convinced this happened. That and that's it's part of and this was sure. This was what you want it you said the frustration. You designed. So that people would want to know I asked you is that the number one thing people ask you what's troop what's true and and it is. Yeah it's it's it's also the number one question not just in the book when I think it's it really important question of modern life in general watch true. What this room book well as you know it's a complicated thing you here I thought it was true that I was a good guy and decent. Person. Polite and kind. And I got drafted and I went to Vietnam. And what I do so convinced was true. There's balls renewed. And discovered another Campbell Brian. Are. Black angry bitter cynical. Scared. Guy. That you become when you're 21 years old and people trying to kill you and a ward you despise. In the or thought it was wrong it we should then there and I found myself there. And I learned that I didn't have the courage to say no I thought I'd be courageous guy. Does take note of the war. A so that that's where this issue of truth matters in life and not just in law it its. And I think that all of us are in our lives occasionally surprised by the things week. And we. Discover our true we will meet somebody and we've learned later that's not the person Colorado is very user fees out of character and and I think we also discovered about ourselves every party listening to this doesn't believe in Santa Claus anymore year over you know fifteen years older thirteen. But once upon a time Santa Claus loses real. As real people. They believe it. But but pursuing people don't vote the way that they view Vietnam. Has changed the way they view Vietnam veterans. Has changed. In the last 4050 years and has your view of Vietnam changed or do you still feel the same way you did as a twenty year old man. It hasn't changed now. I mean you still think you fought a stupid war. Yeah and in. I mean I tuned tomorrow night at. At the library I'll be where no white shirt. And my wife got for me edit JC Penney's. And Austin, Texas currently. And on the collar lecture actors little tag that says made in Vietnam. So forty years after a war bush three million people died and 60000 roughly American soldiers. Whereby and white shirts and JC Penney's. Made in Vietnam. Teenagers are bicycling up and down highway line. And Vietnam. Businesses booming Hewlett-Packard and IBM. Apple are all there and many others to. Other question presents itself to me. Nobody seems to care. Forty years later. It that we had we'd law the worst possible thing happened we lost the war. In this war have been sold to us as it is a pending catastrophe. We don't go kill people. This Tommy's will be on the Streets of San Francisco and Albion Seattle dominos will fall and Hollis these days you'll will go up. Three million people later dad. And who among us really wakes up every morning and old dear god we lost the war in Viet. What a nightmare I've lost all my liberties. Nobody thinks that sort of lie and veteran war. So you have to get that going back to Dana's truth question for me. How how true was very reason that we killed people. Tim O'Brien joins us in studio author of the book of things they carried. Me get back was Kim. What did you carry. Via. We have the Kansas City elaborate plans branched mar 630 units sold out. To the newsroom in Worcester putting together more pieces from Vegas more next. Listening to the date in parks podcast. At some balls hard where your headquarters for all of things or this fall you know right now you can get that three step fall lawn fertilizer program now is the time. To get that stuff from Kansas City select that is the brand used to decay by Trevor rants of August answerable pumpkins rock or stocks moms and more war. 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Kings throughout sixty downtown 62 in KCK and it you're official weather station. I'm will stairs stay connected with news in 981 KM BZ and KE MBC. Dot com. Think Harry. I historical fiction. Many of you would find that hard to believe he'll be at the Kansas City library plaza branch. Tomorrow night it is sold out world response say they're going to be live streaming the event and so if you got the cancer public library page on the web just look at they're going to be light streaming. Mr. O'Brien's talk starting at 630. And you are fascinating. As fascinating to listen to. As you are. To read and so we're just again thrilled to have you here well one of the questions I have after reading the book. Is was it easier. To write it. As they work of quote fiction. Then it would have been to tell the real factual Ross story of what you saw and went through in other words that your way of not. Talking about Vietnam. It. Sort of to talk obliquely. At just how many veterans talk about their wars it was shortly to talk about them my dad couldn't talk directly though when he went through World War II. But he could talk obliquely about it kind of Gene Kelly Fred Astaire chipper kind of known GOP wave talking about. Horrible stuff. Because that was the way that my father was brought up and I was even part of the times as a good war. So all firm for me. I'd I would have great difficulty trying to even remember chronology of what actually happened. I can't everything you know war like if you're had cancer. Our fear in the middle of a divorce. The world swirls. And eat eat kicking out. Here's. You can't say what caused what what happened first second. I tender right. Most of my books episodic. Don't have transitions. I jumped from this episode two that to another one. Which is how might memory works and I think back in Vietnam our member. Today. My friend chip Merrick died. And what I did when I saw. And then five days old vanished in memory and I'll remember. That. Beautiful screen so cool water only yours so and jumping into it and and and nightmares ensued as we are swimming tennis. River unarmed naked. And the fire command under the trees that is. And then my memory will vanish or have two weeks to go away three weeks of boredom and monotony and then the next memory. So that's why I write these books not as a Linear. Narrative because they're beginning middle and a jump around in time because that's in my memory works when I'm lying in bed at night. I'll remember. One event that'll. Kick off the memory later another event in three months it actually happened three months later. I think that's pretty common I think we are I think our memories basically do work out I don't think we work. In our heads away novels usually work at kind of Linear plot in areas. Where it's sort of all clear. Memories Fuzzy for me act if they're real word for memory ought to be. Forgetfulness. Because. Most of what I've gone through in my life I've totally erased including Vietnam not there are animal or I were. In my actual memory I maybe have ten minutes of things I can talk about fifteen. And all the rest of it's gone forever just like yesterday's probably gone for you. How much did you tell me about yesterday before you run out of stuff to say. And when does that start getting real general. Specific you read about in the book going back to Vietnam with a fictional daughter. You actually did go back with Hewitt then girlfriend at the time that you went back after you wrote the spot right was it helpful for you to go back are you afraid to go back. I wasn't afraid on the ideas I hate airplanes and I hit long flights I am a smoker cycle and not done you know 24 hour flights. I went for her she was a lot younger and I. She wanted to know I woke up. Yelling in my sleep and instilled. Not often that very few months. Are mumbling much sleep so editor for her and it was great I learned. The Vietnam was not just a war itself place on the earth. Geographically just. Gorgeous place and eat greens. Beautiful. Unspoiled beaches in the place and and Vietnam a country and and filled with people. And not enemies there's human beings. And very forgiving people at that. So it was. In my memory there'll always be that. A rice paddy just bubbling with machine gunfire there'll always be there that memory. But now alongside that memory there's this memory of great beauty. And peaceful us. So their living side by side inside me so I'm really glad to die in. Return you're able to actually go back to some of the coordinates where you worse as specifically were you anymore I found the place where have been wounded. The spot of ground. From which way. And I've pretty amazing after all that time you can find it that. It's like finding your childhood sandbox if you visit the house you grew up and you guys and you know warriors and box was. You can find. That's. Different. A little but not. Substantially mean little different there were new things. Around. But the pizza ground itself as a technical. Do what I remembered from years ago decades ago. In the book you obviously it's entitled the things they carried talk about there's one character. Who brings marijuana. There's one who is madly in love with his. Girlfriend right in fact if I'm not mistaken and I haven't read the book so forgive me about my girlfriends are real last night interest only about this morning. Match assessment with the way. She uses at one point this. Character who's madly in love with his girlfriend. Is so enthralled with the fought off her that he doesn't pay attention to another guy who goes to the restroom and uses head off right. But you talk about the things. They carried she told me. What did you carry. What do you carry in and what did you. Carry out. Like carried in great terror and one guy. And I was young fresh out of college. I carried with me in opposition to the war. That it is unwinnable. And we didn't plan. They carried cowardice to ignore it should've said no and you know that. And had a. Bravery Tuesday it now I'm not gonna do to us. So island or feeling guilty and but I went because I didn't want people in my hometown. Think of me as a collar workers Sissy. I want in my mom and dad to be proud of me. And one in my country. To be proud of me. Even though Islamic country was wrong and make no war. And I went mayor mostly out of fear of ridicule. What people would say about me I didn't go that went to Canada or in jail. Iowa and the surface to look very brave going to war room doing the stuff I did. But inside I felt exactly the reverse of shouldn't be here doing these things but I did them. Pulled the trigger. And did what they've missed most to do. But tests I carried a great deal of guilt and still do a war. And a lot of soldiers do they don't have might. Necessarily in my viewpoint on the war. Which you can't be in a war. And not feels arm. Gil and these are human beings are. Dead people on the other side. It's not the only thing you feel other stuff do you feel relieved to be alive after a fire fight and you feel guilty about that. Why my friend see. All you do you begin to accumulate all these emotional. Things. And some of them are contradictory as July awake thinking you know I did the right thing my country wannabes do this and went to the war oh what more do you want. And I think well my conscience and vicious and something different yours and the rustling never stops and never will stopped or dad. So all last a few carriers sort of most soldiers they're not exactly those things. But wars do not end when you sign a peace treaty they just. Go on and on in your hand in and heads of their children. And those those children who lost their fathers. And mothers. Who lost their sons. Who used. If I have to mention his name a little earlier chip mayors whose name in news. Black guy from Orlando. Lives. Closest friend and like in my company. Who one day step down. Land mine was blown into a tree and killed. Any was just diocese. Nothing pretentious about it and just so naturally guy. And mr. happy go lucky that he was happy. And it is deaths. Shattering Toomey because that was the first death of someone close to me. And he died at such a hideous way and I often. Think about his. Mom and dad all these years later they're still alive you know. And hollow for them. The what we're Vietnam it is so abstract it's their son has been dead for 45 years and the parent is working waking up at 2 in the morning where's my baby where is night navy. Her baby's been dead for all these decades towards goes on and we forget. We think Vietnam. Ancient history that is not ancient history. If your father died over there and you never knew him or six months old and is not ancient history among others the father. So in Ken burns and Len know lifted their film or hoping. And I did put it could help them not much I tried. The hope was that. They're Buena. What we thought was it at war is over it would touch. The hearts. Of millions of people not just to enter the millions of people who were affected by war. I mean the multiple of book friends and neighbors uncles and aunts and all that dead people on the wounded. Goes on and on. Until we're all gone from the earth. As those that that it. Reverberate and Vietnam is there's going to be there's just been silenced early years. Tim O'Brien joins us and student author of the book the things they carried he will be at the Kansas City library plaza branch tomorrow will be live streamed disease sold out event. You can't catch it on line if you wish more with Tim O'Brien in just moment Brandon parks. Entered the programs are Woodbury with Luke Catholic insurance dot com joins us now hi Stuart. Hey. I am dead remind people how quick how easy it is to cover your family appropriately. With life insurance. Felt secure look at the term life insurance and that's what type of life insurance we recommend. It is that is it simply what you check out the website give us a call will help you navigate to the means of products there's literally hundreds which achieved. We'll help you decide the proper amount of life insurance that you need. Well select the proper term again we will help you pick. Beans. Specific policy for your individual situation. And Peter real quick at forty year old male that's a nonsmoker and otherwise in good health can get a one million a year guaranteed level premium plan. Less than twenty dollars per month it was. 8167920700. I think 16792. 0700. It took it very with low cost life insurance dot com. Listening to the date in parks podcast. Problems and in studio hasn't played. So it's just an honor to us. He is the author of the things they carried and I have been. I caught off guard by how many people written and said I had to write. A paper on this book I got an in my house. Your book is well read in a high schools and colleges around the country we got a question on the text line. Have you ever coming to contacts and you've written these books and and this is not hero would vote to Britain others. With people you served with in Vietnam. Graham this is historical efficiency not naming them by name. Bob May be some of the people you serve with C themselves and some of the people you write about. Have you ever had contact with people you serve with the Vietnam and what was their reaction. Yes I have I mean I've run Hendrick guys all around the country may be off. Fifteen times twelve times something like that different parts of the country in Richmond Virginia ran into a good friend of mine was in Meyer's squad in Vietnam. And Pennsylvania ran into another. Chicago and others like yeah I have. Ended their attitudes toward ERR. They're respectful they're glad I wrote about. Their war there were many Vietnam wars in if you were a marine in Europe north totally different war pitched battles. Where I was it was a war of attrition that land mines as I mentioned short totaled twenty minute fire fights. Village to village and an adult and it was another war. So they're glad that I was my friends that I served wishing to be generally glad that I and represented. There wore. This kind of daily. Plotting from place to place and going in circles there and heavily mined area. And they'd just some of them I think they haven't said so directly to me but I think they object in my depiction of a particular guy. It. Who had. And nickname that I won't repeat because that would identify him but it was a nickname and I used a nickname and a book. And today unlike most traders note to whom for an out. And so there are some true people these books yeah that this guy is from this wisdom this. Guy appeared memoir. Very first book there was an openness and things Terry. They've lived most of these guys admired disguised as a candidate I thought he was sash and killer immoral. Person. Who. Cut off ears and noses in. Shut people dad are just farmers. That's on humans. Bad they thought it was a great leader and he was. He used brain you'd you would lead and he would lead you into a firefight he wouldn't tell you that go into it deviate from. Get two side shoes. Very brave. Accomplish soldier news special forces ranger. But he also had a murderous side and shouldn't objected to them and so I think my friends some of them different mind you know opinion about this guy. But that's the world for who we all differ we talked about Donald Trump. Knowing it trillion different opinions if you talk about you know Hillary Clinton in all kinds of different views ever. That's the world we live event and I've I can only be faithful and are writing to Indy and my own conscience and my own view. What moral behavior is and what immoral behaviors and I tried to be faithful to it and all my books. I might be wrong at least have been faithful to what I believe. So our talk. Yeah really hard. It's hard because you feel you're not doing justice. People. Who suffered so much. Define words. There are. Rules somehow make your listeners feel something of what I felt all those years ago. Ian Ian credible. Active. Bravery on the part of men just to walk. Forget the firefight forget the bullet forget the weapons forget all that just walked. Which here in Kansas City you know you who we that we go to on streets we don't even think about it we just walk over there land blows you up. And your dad or urinary legs anymore. Every morning Aaron we're getting. Upton. He's. The heaviest night defensive position. And on usually on a hill and in the morning around 5 in the morning to saddle that we had out there today. And just to look at my legs and those those legs or move how he's doing. Anemic here legs move. That. Did that seems almost impossible to me now because it only had to do is fall down. Minority candidate can't India Vietnam yardage there. They can picture that you put in jail and how militarily and do it but. And what I think of party how you do justice did just a simple thing like walking you have to. Find words that make people. Think all van Allen would be scary it turned. Walked on the sidewalk at a grocery stores to decide what guidelines on it. And then you multiply that by called. On the ambushes. And all of terrible fire fights. And although. Although of butchery. Going on all around juniors so beyond. That it it is hard to talk about it is not psychological roots it's searching for words that'll. Make you feel something that does not coming out of John Wayne movie. Keep reading. I would hope and trying. While we hope that you do and and you have taught me things that I didn't know and I know that there are people listening who. Are just coming to discover your work and so thank you for that. And and thank you for talking about it it's it's hard I can't even imagine. And so thank you I think got veterans are saying thank you good for opening the com. I'm here emperor and for mine from my friends and hear from me. If you ever come back to an obvious strategy okay you're welcome in this studio and you. And you know that you look like Bill Murray he has such. We can all. I've heard that yeah that it Britain's. Got a great to meet you guys and you legends cars it was an honor Tim O'Brien. Author of the book the things they carried. And he will be at the Kansas City library plaza branch tomorrow night at sold out you can catch it. On line if you like an honor and privilege and thank you for spending some of your time with us thanks thanks so much to the newsroom Worcester. Happening now. On JMB easy going nuclear morn next but first to keyword to cash text the word rose to 72881. For your chance when a thousand dollars. That word again is rose RO SE text that to 72881. For your chance at a thousand dollars more next.