Artistic Response to War


Paul Hardcastle \’19\”

Nineteen was the average age of the American soldier during the Vietnam War. It may seem as though that the men drafted to fight for our country were much too young, it’s because they were, practically still teenagers. I find the reality much worse when you compare nineteen to twenty six, which was the average age of the American soldier during World War II. Music has a way of touching hearts and invading minds in a way I believe no other artistic medium can. So, I chose a video of a song recorded by Paul Hardcastle in the nineteen eighties entitled “19″. The artist’s continues with this comparison between the two wars throughout the song, as a way to engage the listener. He does an outstanding job, the listener will perhaps emerge, as I did with the belief that war, especially the Vietnam War, is the epitome of “destruction”, as Hardcastle mentions time and time again in the piece.

Imagine graduating high school or just entering college when all of a sudden you receive a letter in the mail informing you that you have been chosen to serve your country in a war that isn’t benefitting your country in the least. How would you respond? The men chosen were young and full of life and entered into a treacherous war zone with ill prepared bodies as well as minds. “According to a Veteran’s Administration study half of the Vietnam combat veterans suffered from what Psychiatrists call Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. Many vets complain of alienation, rage, or guilt, some succumb to suicidal thoughts eight to ten years after coming home. Almost eight-hundred thousand men are still fighting the Vietnam War.” War has the power to alter your state of mind. That power, I assume, is more intense when you are young and had no intention of entering a draft. Listening to the song, Hardcastle’s voice is so intense and passionate about the subject that it comes off a bit disturbing. The voice is so compelling; your ears are attuned and stay fixated on Hardcastle’s profound speech. In a way, he’s subconsciously placing you in a soldier’s shoes. Immediately, a feeling of helplessness overcomes you and you come to the realization that a war is one place you never want to be. “In Vietnam the combat soldier typically served a twelve month tour of duty but was exposed to hostile fire almost everyday… Hundreds of Thousands of men who saw heavy combat in Vietnam were arrested since discharge. Their arrest rate is almost twice that of non-veterans of the same age.” Hostile environments create hostile minds. You cannot expect someone to enter into a setting so different than what they are used to and exceedingly perilous and expect them to emerge unscathed. Soldiers are risking their lives day in and day out; a healthy outlet to their suffering won’t always be the case.

“Dedededededede-Destruction.” War and this word are synonymous. When you are placed in a position and you have to choose between saving your life and taking a life, I think it’s safe to say that you will choose the latter. It’s a horrible thought, but that’s all these men and women entering combat are doing, protecting their lives and the lives of their fellow countrymen. “After World War II the Men came home together on troop ships, but the Vietnam Vets often arrived home within 48 hours of jungle combat. Perhaps the most dramatic difference between World War II and Vietnam was coming home, none of them received a hero’s welcome.” Fighting a war that your country placed you into and coming home without open arms has to be upsetting and unsettling. As a result, it can cause more harm to a veteran’s psyche.

Hardcastle’s approach to war being a cause for ruin is certainly effective. What’s more effective is that he uses the gift of song to push for the respect of those that served and are serving on our behalf.  No one person grows up dreaming of being in a place where the motto is “eat or be eaten,” for this reason we should be a nation united.