Vietnam War Literature
Reading Reaction V
Due: January 6, 2002
The Billion Dollar Skeleton, by Phan Huy Duong sheds light onto the graveyard that Vietnam became during the Vietnam War. The storyís main focus is on a billionaireís plight to find his sonís body and the chaos he causes in doing so. The story focuses on not only the American losses during the war, but correlates these losses to the Vietnamese side of the war. Death is shown in this story to be not only a casualty of war, but also a casualty that is also the death of love and family during a war of hatred.
The billionaire searches for his son to bury the body in the family plot, a promise he had made to his dead wife. The Billionaire had become so obsessed in finding his sonís body, he had forgot about the respect the dead deserved. With his money that he offered for bones, he had uncovered the resting dead and turned the land into a chaotic mound of bones. When old father-in-law of his son had told the Billionaire where he was he asked the Billionaire to burn the bones and to spread the ashes from one city to another. Through this action the dead where finally given a resting place as the families in their homes prayed. The dead were sent to live with the ancestors that the old man stated built civilizations; building civilizations as opposed to destroying them with war.
In the course of these events, the Billionaire came to find that his son has fathered a son, and while being in Vietnam has developed a family of his own. He realizes that to take his body he would be removing his son from where he belonged, with the rest of his new family. The Billionaire instead takes the body of an unknown soldier that could have been from either side to rest in the family plot. The Billionaire was given a peace through his actions. He knew his son was in peace where he truly belonged. Whoever he brought back in the coffin was at peace as well, a part of a family unit instead of being alone and unknown.
This story focuses on the healing process that applies to both sides of the Vietnam War. Many victims lost their lives and are still not found on either side, but the fact remains that regardless these bodies are at rest. Instead of bringing up old, bad memories both sides should embrace one another and begin to heal looking towards a future that holds greatness. The past cannot be changed, but the future is ours for the making. The past provides a blueprint for people to use so as to try to not repeat the mistakes of the past.
This story has a very important message that gives the reader insight into the many stories that echo the losses of Vietnam. The stories that speak of the final burial places of the bodies, the final resting spots, the graves of brave men from either side now who each share in the reality of death together as one. The horrid images that haunt the dreams and realities of both Vietnam and American soldiers do not need to be awakened. We should learn from the past and go forward with the future. Much is lost because of the Vietnam War, but what is gained besides solemnity?