CamoScroll Image
Navigation Background
Helmet Image
Text Background
Interface Design by Peggy Stanley
Soldier Photo


Paige Paquette, PhD
CPT Michael Warren

In Tim O'Brien's story, "The Things They Carried," a section of the eponymous novel about the Vietnam War, O'Brien characterizes each soldier by what he carries with him while at war. These soldiers carry items such as pictures, tranquilizers, toothbrushes, and the Bible. The soldiers in this story carry more than just symbolic representations. Each soldier also carries his individual story, his life experiences during the war. Today, the U.S. military is in the midst of another war, the Global War on Terror, and these soldiers also carry items that represent their honor, beliefs, and families. Men and women in the military today also carry more than just items that symbolically represent their lives; they carry amazing stories of their wartime experiences.

This webtext examines two unique methods for helping soldiers not only carry these stories but make them heard. One method concerns online composition wherein other soldiers carry their computers to war, to work, to their homes on vacation. They study and learn without the traditional classroom, without the university setting. Through various forms of participant collaboration, students and instructors are able to exchange thoughts and share experiences that they carry daily, enhancing this unique version of the composition classroom.

A second method is that soldiers share their stories with cadets from West Point who, in turn, share their thoughts about writing with the soldiers. The "Telling War Stories" project assigned to a select group of first-year cadets at West Point links English composition students with veterans from the Global War on Terror. These veterans carry inspirational stories of their experiences, and when they are linked with the cadets in the composition course, their stories become the lessons the students learn. The veterans become the curriculum the cadets study. They become the stories the students will carry with them into their own careers.

What soldiers carry, both personally and educationally, makes them stronger. Educational opportunities that can help carry soldiers into a future ready for their stories make us all stronger.