Nervous yet faithful, strong yet inexperienced, Elizabeth A. Allen followed the path of her family members and joined the Vietnam War. Both a woman and African American, Allen had a much lower status compared to many other nurses working along side of her. When Allen saw the rows of young men sitting under the scorching sun, waiting to fill the place of a dead man and only to die themselves, she began to question the purpose of the war. Bodies poured into the hospital in waves and the caretakers struggled to take care of them with limited supplies and personnels. After all that struggle and sacrifice, Allen, along with many other American veterans, only received hostility from their own nation in return. She fought both a war against the communist forces as well as her own identity.
Allen had escaped death numerous times and was forced to watched the cruel acts of death destroying others in a war that, from the description of her recounts and The Things They Carried, seemed utterly pointless. Weighted down by the things they carried, the soldiers in the war “humped” the mountains and fields and forests and rice paddies mechanically. Their minds, along with Allen’s mind, were unconsciously numbed by the shelling and shooting and screaming in an attempt to salvage their sanity from the grip of war. Of course they were tough people, but what was their toughness for?