The Eyes Of A Soldier’s Son: James Carroll’s American Reflection
By Laura Matteri
A walk through the National Mall. A glance up the hill towards Arlington Cemetery. Car rides down Independence Way with his mother at the wheel. These wistful acts bring memories flooding back. Lincoln’s Memorial looks over the “sacred axis of American memory,” or what he, as a child, called a “giant pencil” -- the Washington Monument.
During a recent lecture at Marymount Manhattan College’s Theresa Lang Theatre, titled “1945-2007: America and Its Wars,” Carroll spoke of the wars that changed his childhood and America’s role in the world. As a child, he grew up in a militant family. Wars and fighting for America were not only a topic of discussion, rather, a family tradition.
Carroll began loving Washington D.C. and the idea of a soldier’s life at a young age. It started with the drives with his mother and brothers down Independence Way, followed by having his brothers in the Great Parade. Joining ROTC and his inauguration sealed the deal that he had waited so long for.
Shrines to three wars sit in the heart of Washington, D.C; the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and World War II. Looming above the monuments on the “Avenue of Heroes” is the entrance to the Arlington Cemetery. Carroll distinctly mentions the fact that only American names appear engraved in the memorials, making it seem that America fought its wars alone.
Carroll calls his lifetime that of the pentagon. From the eyes of a soldier’s son, he saw everything and every aspect, good and bad, of a military family. The reflecting pool in the mall is the image of his childhood. The monuments reflected show the courage and altruism that kept the system running. Carroll says he has become a better man because of his reflection.