List 4

List 1

A series of linked stories explores the lifelong effects of trauma on a platoon of soldiers during and after the Vietnam War.

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definitions & notes
only words

  1. elusive

    difficult to detect or grasp by the mind or analyze
    More than anything, he wanted Martha to love him as he loved her, but the letters were mostly chatty,
    elusive on the matter of love.
  2. distracted

    having the attention diverted especially because of anxiety
    Slowly, a bit
    distracted, he would get up and move among his men, checking the perimeter, then at full dark he would return to his hole and watch the night and wonder if Martha was a virgin.
  3. necessity

    anything indispensable
    Among the
    necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water.
  4. devout

    deeply religious
    Kiowa, a
    devout Baptist, carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father, who taught Sunday school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
  5. makeshift

    done or made using whatever is available
    Because the nights were cold, and because the monsoons were wet, each carried a green plastic poncho that could be used as a raincoat or groundsheet or
    makeshift tent.
  6. malaria

    a disease caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite
    As a medic, Rat Kiley carried a canvas satchel filled with morphine and plasma and
    malaria tablets and surgical tape and comic books and all the things a medic must carry, including M&M’s for especially bad wounds, for a total weight of nearly 18 pounds.
  7. obvious

    easily perceived by the senses or grasped by the mind
    They stripped off Lavender’s canteens and ammo, all the heavy things, and Rat Kiley said the
    obvious, the guy’s dead
  8. appropriate

    suitable for a particular person, place, or situation
    In addition to the three standard weapons—the M-60, M-16, and M-79—they carried whatever presented itself, or whatever seemed
    appropriate as a means of killing or staying alive.
  9. awe

    an overwhelming feeling of wonder or admiration
    They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent
    awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.
  10. ambush

    concealing yourself and lying in wait to attack by surprise
    On
    ambush, or other night missions, they carried peculiar little odds and ends.
  11. insignia

    a badge worn to show official position
    They carried chess sets, basketballs, Vietnamese-English dictionaries,
    insignia of rank, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts, plastic cards imprinted with the Code of Conduct.
  12. artillery

    an army unit that uses big guns
    They shot chickens and dogs, they trashed the village well, they called in
    artillery and watched the wreckage, then they marched for several hours through the hot afternoon, and then at dusk, while Kiowa explained how Lavender died, Lieutenant Cross found himself trembling.
  13. poise

    great coolness and composure under strain
    For the most part they carried themselves with
    poise, a kind of dignity.
  14. casualty

    someone injured or killed in a military engagement
    They would check for
    casualties, call in dustoffs, light cigarettes, try to smile, clear their throats and spit and begin cleaning their weapons.
  15. zeal

    a feeling of strong eagerness
    Some carried themselves with a sort of wistful resignation, others with pride or stiff soldierly discipline or good humor or macho
    zeal.
  16. cowardice

    the trait of lacking courage
    They carried the common secret of
    cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down, it required perfect balance and perfect posture.
  17. dishonor

    a state of shame or disgrace
    It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of
    dishonor.
  18. comport

    behave in a certain manner
    It wouldn’t help Lavender, he knew that, but from this point on he would
    comport himself as an officer.
  19. ruthless

    without mercy or pity
    Each morning we’d form up in a long column, the old poppa-san out front, and for the whole day we’d troop along after him, tracing his footsteps, playing an exact and
    ruthless game of follow the leader.
  20. vacant

    void of thought or knowledge
    You’d be sitting at the top of a high hill, the flat paddies stretching out below, and the day would be calm and hot and utterly
    vacant, and you’d feel the boredom dripping inside you like a leaky faucet, except it wasn’t water, it was a sort of acid, and with each little droplet you’d feel the stuff eating away at important organs.
  21. forthrightly

    directly and without evasion; not roundabout
    All of us, I suppose, like to believe that in a moral emergency we will behave like the heroes of our youth, bravely and
    forthrightly, without thought of personal loss or discredit.
  22. frugal

    avoiding waste
    Courage, I seemed to think, comes to us in finite quantities, like an inheritance, and by being
    frugal and stashing it away and letting it earn interest, we steadily increase our moral capital in preparation for that day when the account must be drawn down.
  23. naive

    lacking information or instruction
    Young, yes, and politically
    naive, but even so the American war in Vietnam seemed to me wrong.
  24. isolated

    remote and separate physically or socially
    I felt
    isolated; I spent a lot of time alone.
  25. option

    one of a number of things from which only one can be chosen
    All around me the
    options seemed to be narrowing, as if I were hurtling down a huge black funnel, the whole world squeezing in tight.
  26. deferment

    act of putting off to a future time
    The government had ended most graduate school
    deferments; the waiting lists for the National Guard and Reserves were impossibly long; my health was solid; I didn’t qualify for CO status—no religious grounds, no history as a pacifist.
  27. comparable

    able to be described as similar
    There were occasions, I believed, when a nation was justified in using military force to achieve its ends, to stop a Hitler or some
    comparable evil, and I told myself that in such circumstances I would’ve willingly marched off to the battle.
  28. exile

    the act of expelling a person from their native land
    I feared the war, yes, but I also feared
    exile.
  29. acquiescence

    acceptance without protest
    I’d be screaming at them, telling them how much I detested their blind, thoughtless, automatic
    acquiescence to it all, their simpleminded patriotism, their prideful ignorance, their love-it-or-leave-it platitudes, how they were sending me off to fight a war they didn’t understand and didn’t want to understand.
  30. pious

    having or showing or expressing reverence for a deity
    All of them—I held them personally and individually responsible—the polyestered Kiwanis boys, the merchants and farmers, the
    pious churchgoers, the chatty housewives, the PTA and the Lions club and the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the fine upstanding gentry out at the country club.
  31. gratitude

    a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation
    Six days later, when it ended, I was unable to find a proper way to thank him, and I never have, and so, if nothing else, this story represents a small gesture of
    gratitude twenty years overdue.
  32. ferocious

    marked by extreme and violent energy
    What I remember more than anything is the man’s willful, almost
    ferocious silence.
  33. cryptic

    having a puzzling terseness
    He killed me at the Scrabble board, barely concentrating, and on those occasions when speech was necessary he had a way of compressing large thoughts into small,
    cryptic packets of language.
  34. grotesque

    ludicrously odd
    Twenty-one years old, an ordinary kid with all the ordinary dreams and ambitions, and all I wanted was to live the life I was born to—a mainstream life—I loved baseball and hamburgers and cherry Cokes—and now I was off on the margins of exile, leaving my country forever, and it seemed so
    grotesque and terrible and sad.
  35. denial

    the act of asserting that something alleged is not true
    He never put me in a position that required lies or
    denials.
  36. reticence

    the trait of being uncommunicative
    To an extent, I suppose, his
    reticence was typical of that part of Minnesota, where privacy still held value, and even if I’d been walking around with some horrible deformity—four arms and three heads—I’m sure the old man would’ve talked about everything except those extra arms and heads.
  37. insufficient

    of a quantity not able to fulfill a need or requirement
    But even more than that, I think, the man understood that words were
    insufficient.
  38. hover

    hang in the air; fly or be suspended above
    During my time at the Tip Top Lodge I had the feeling that I’d slipped out of my own skin,
    hovering a few feet away while some poor yo-yo with my name and face tried to make his way toward a future he didn’t understand and didn’t want.
  39. vigil

    a purposeful surveillance to guard or observe
    I’ll never be certain, of course, but I think he meant to bring me up against the realities, to guide me across the river and to take me to the edge and to stand a kind of
    vigil as I chose a life for myself.
  40. mockery

    showing your contempt by derision
    I couldn’t endure the
    mockery, or the disgrace, or the patriotic ridicule.
Created on July 9, 2013
(updated July 31, 2018)

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