In Sweetheart of The Song Tra Bong, Mary Anne is mentally and physically changed after arriving in the jungle to accompany her boyfriend, Mark Fossie, while he is a medic in the Vietnam War. My friend’s oldest sister, Gal, will shortly be going into the army in Israel. At age eighteen, everyone in Israel is required to serve in the army, whether they are a medic, fighter, guide, or secret service; all eighteen year olds must serve their time for a minimum of two full years. Gal will leave to become a medic in the Israeli army this December. Unlike Mary Anne, Gal is already in her comfort zone and is attached to the land of Israel. Once the land and culture of Vietnam start to surround Mary Anne, a spark in her is ignited and she no longer wants to leave. For both Mary Anne and Gal, becoming a soldier leads to inevitable change.
Mary Anne has nothing to lose; it is apparent the day she arrives in the helicopter for Fossie. “..I’ve never been happier in my whole entire life. Never” (O’Brien 95). In this, O’Brien reveals that Mary Anne was not happy where she was before and is ready for a new experience. Mary Anne embraces her fondness for the new environment. She escapes into the jungle at night with the six Greenies on an ambush. The odds of Mary Anne fleeing to the jungle at night when she first arrives is very little, but by the end of her third week in the jungle, Mary Anne’s perspective of the war changes drastically. She awakens and is “taken to the dark side,” telling Fossie, “Sometimes I want to eat this place. The whole country-- the dirt, the death-- I just want to swallow it and have it there inside me,” (106). Mary Anne craves the danger and uncertainty of the darkness in the jungle; she craves the unknown.
Similar to Mary Anne, both Gal and my best friend Rotem crave the unknown. Unlike Mary Anne who takes a leap and does not look down, they are curious as to what is out there, beyond their home, school, and friends, but they are also nervous. In contrast to Gal’s decision, Rotem wants to train to be a soldier when it is her turn to serve. In order to become a soldier, your two minimum years of serving in the army are spent in training, and if you want to proceed in becoming a soldier, you would stay in the army to continue your training and eventually become a soldier and fight in the war.Not everyone is born to fight or even train to fight in a war. It takes mental, physical, and emotional strength beyond what is capable of most human beings. The inner fight of a soldier, or even a medic, is ambiguous and compares to no other inner fight fought in the world. “She wanted more, she wanted to penetrate deeper into the mystery of herself, and after a time the wanting became needing, which turned then to craving” (109). Not only is it a fight with the enemy, it is a fight within yourself.
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Bibliography: Young girls in the Israeli Army, Israel. Personal photograph by author. 2013.