During The Things They Carried O'Brien illustrates that the Vietnam as traumatic and destructive as it was will never end for those who have survived it. Even though the Vietnam War ended over 25 years ago he shows that the trauma associated with the war has had mental and physical effects on some of the soldiers after the war had finished. As far as O'Brien is concerned he believes that these experiences of war continue to haunt their victims for years after they have taken place. These experiences are the things they carried.
Throughout the whole novel O'Brien is recalling moments from the war in which he feels haunt him most. He is telling us these stories in an effort to get these 'burdens' off his chest such as in the story titled The Man I Killed. He still lies on his bed under the weight of his regrets about what happened and is most disturbed about the thought of knowing someone could be alive if it wasn't for him.
He feels that he is guilty by association claiming "my presence was guilt enough." thus illustrating that he still thinks about the war and he can't move on from what has happened.
Someone else that couldn't come to terms with the aftermath of the war was Norman Bowker. He never gets over Kiowa's death for example he says that "That night when Kiowa got wasted, I sort of sank down with him" as a result of his inability he unexpectedly commits suicide. This is an example of why the war never ends for those who survive the war, the guilt and experiences that he gained from the war dictated how he lived his life and sent him into a state of depression after the war, which ultimately led to his...