As an undergraduate student at VCU, I spent the second semester of my freshman year engaged in a research project where I read up on American War literature, specifically that of the Vietnam War, specifically that of Tim O’Brien. While my project focused on genre and structure of O’Brien’s novels, it was impossible to avoid the many papers that discuss the war in terms of coming home. I became aware of the common belief that soldiers never really came all the way home and that some part of them always stayed in the war. I saw this in some of what O’Brien wrote, but that concept took a backseat to my project and I let it fall out of my thoughts.
That was until the idea presented itself to me in real life. I was swiping through Tinder one afternoon when a particular soldier’s moment came up on my message board inside the app. For those of you who don’t know what Tinder is, it’s a kind of dating app where you “like” or “dislike” various user profiles by swiping left or right on user pictures. If you and a user “like” each other, you are then able to message one another and view each other’s moments through the app.
I lived very near a military base, so my matches were often with soldiers staying there. The particular soldier I’m remembering now was one of my matches. We had never messaged, but he posted a moment that day: a picture of himself back home with the caption “Home finally. Someone show this soldier how to be a civilian again.”
The caption could have been a simple, playful rouse to get a date on a Saturday night, but then again I thought of all those papers I had read about soldiers never really coming home. Maybe that caption was really a plea for help from a soldier who really didn’t know “how to be a civilian again.”
Elizabeth Farschon is a freshman English Major at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been writing since childhood, and especially loves poetry, although she enjoys every genre.