Although Earnest Hemmingway's, "Soldiers Home" (187) was written in 1925, and the war at that time was different, there are several things in the story that still ring true today for servicemen. In "Soldiers Home" (187) Krebs, the main character in the story goes through some changes while he is away fighting in the Marine Corps. Krebs was a young man from Kansas who is in college at the time that he is drafted into the Marine Corps. So he leaves his friends and family to go overseas to fight for his country, as do the young men and women of todays armed forces. As told by the author Krebs fights in some of the toughest battles that were ever fought, "Belau Wood, Soissons, Champagne St. Mihiel, and The Argonne Forrest" (187), he feels out of place when he returns home from combat as a lot of soldiers do today returning from Iraq, and Afghanistan. Problems troops have returning home from World War I, as well as the present conflicts in Iraq, and Afghanistan are not very different in the way they are handled by the soldier himself and the way society looks at them.
As a matter of fact, there has been a great deal of analysis of this story of Hemingway's in terms of various wars and military actions since it was first written, with some modern scholars finding an uncanny resemblance of Krebs' experiences to those of soldiers returning home from Vietnam despite the fact that the story had been written a half century before the United States entered into armed warfare in Southeast Asia (Associated Content). As the modern understanding of warfare has come closer to what actual warfare is, rather than the glorified view of battle previously presented, the more violence seems simply to echo violence.
Krebs enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1917 from a Methodist college in Kansas and immediately went to fight in combat around the world. He doesn't return home until the summer of 1919, which was far later than the other servicemen had returned. As a result of this he doesn't get any parades or celebrations to welcome him back home. As the author puts it, "By the time Krebs returns to his home town in Oklahoma the greetings of heroes was over." (187) Also he doesn't really engage in conversation with a lot of people because of the fact that they are not interested in what he has to say about the war since all of the other returned soldiers had told their stories and really blown them out of proportion. Krebs stories are boring to the people even though they are true and actually from real combat, and what actually happened. This is like the soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan; the way people tell stories but didn't really do anything, while the ones that were in some real combat do not want to talk about it.
This creates a very real problem for Krebs, as he is in need of individuals to hear his story in order to leave behind the war -- sharing is a way of coping, and Krebs' attempts at a return to normalcy because he is not able to share his changed perception of "normal" with anyone (CourseworkInfo). Furthermore, the fact that other returning soldiers have told outright lies regarding what they saw and accomplished in the war makes even the war-time "normal" experiences of Krebs seem unreal unbelievable or boring to everyone else. This makes it even more difficult for Krebs to communicate his changed attitudes and perspectives and thus present major barriers to his attempts to rebuild normal relationships.
Krebs eventually starts to tell stories to the local population, but he has to lie to keep their attention. As he continues to tell the stories and lying, the author suggests that Krebs starts to feel sickened by the exaggeration and lies being told by him as well as, the other soldiers in town about the war. Krebs starts to feel "badly, sickeningly, frightened all the time." "In this way he had lost everything." (188). This created a true sense of disconnect for the character, as his core values -- his very integrity and honor as well as his valor, which could be considered the defining features of any successful and righteous soldier, ultimately succumbed to the relentless wear on his senses and thought processes that his community's refusal to hear him honestly created (EbscoHost 2). He even lies to his mother, trying to explain that he no longer loves her and probably never did, not really having understood what love meant until having experienced war, and ultimately lies by saying that he didn't really mean any of it (EbscoHost 2).
The issues that Krebs experiences with his family are highly similar to many experiences related by soldiers returning from numerous conflicts, including Vietnam as noted by previous scholars and soldiers returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places facing real combat, death, and myriad other horrors on a daily basis. When a person experiences things like this, they become fundamentally changed, and this change occurs in ways that are simply not understandable to people that have not witnessed the same events. As "Soldier's Home" and subsequent research and scholarship on the novel -- as well as countless other unrelated sources -- clearly shows, the growing apart that this necessarily entails is especially difficult for families.
Krebs parents are simply unable to understand their son upon his return from the war. His mother seems to continually want to deny Krebs' actual feelings, and he finds himself succumbing to her wishes more and more which makes him feel like a coward inside, and this exacerbates his memories of the war and his own conduct there, increasing the negative feelings that he must hide form his mother in a vicious and unending cycle (EbscoHost 2). It is also fairly evident that Krebs' mother's concern, and even his father's to some degree, does not stem as much from a desire to see their son happy again as it does from the desire to maintain their own sense of social normalcy, both convincing themselves that everything is okay and being able to show their neighbors and their community that their son is home and resuming a "normal" middle-class lifestyle (EbscoHost 2).
For America during this period, "normal" meant getting a steady job in some professional capacity, fining a nice girl to marry and settle down with, and the beginning of his own family -- this is what everyone else around the country was doing now that the war was over, and Krebs' parents couldn't understand why he wasn't doing the same thing (EbscoHost 3). As he continues to live with his parents and show little direction or ability to define and achieve goals, his parents become increasingly frustrated, just as Krebs himself becomes increasingly frustrated at his parents' lack of a desire to hear and understand him. This causes their relationship to simply deteriorate more and more rapidly as the story progresses, with communication between Krebs and his parents and indeed anyone else truly impossible (CourseworkInfo).
This shows the extreme difficulty that Krebs had relating to anyone else that had not experienced the war alongside him, even the family members that he knew very well and that knew him very well. While he still had feelings for them and they certainly seemed to still have feelings for him, none of them seemed to be the right feelings and they certainly didn't align. It began to be more and more difficult for Krebs to identify with his family and to be around people who said they loved him but only seemed to want to control him, while at the same time they really didn't seem to care at all about understanding him. This was something that was easier to put up with from relative strangers.
As a result Krebs had started spending most of his time in the pool hall, library reading books about the wars he had fought in, and then actually isolating himself from others as well. From World War I to Desert Shield and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the signs and symptoms of problems has not really changed. Isolation from people, loss of faith in religion, loss of love for everyone because you don't even love yourself due to the things you had to do in combat, so how can you love anyone else. The feelings of depression, anxiety, flashbacks, and severe mood swings are the same except for the names of the problems. In World War I they are called Shellshock, and present day they are called PTSD "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." The two names of these disorders provide some clue as to the degree of seriousness with which they have been weighed in successive eras, and the degree of truly scientific scrutiny that has been devoted to an understanding of this…