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father used to call all soldiers angel warriors,” he said. “Because
usually they get boys to fight wars. Most of you aren’t old enough
to vote yet.”
Lieutenant Carroll speaks these words
following Jenkins’s death in Chapter 4. His
statement emphasizes one of the most important aspects of the novel:
the extreme youth of the soldiers. Carroll’s reference to the voting
age highlights the tragic irony of the military: the fact that the
people defending America are not old enough to have any say in the
way the country is run and likely not mature enough to understand
what they are fighting for. The irony only deepens when we remember
that Carroll himself—who is seen as the wise, older leader—is only
twenty-three years old. Carroll’s reference to soldiers as “angel
warriors” gives the novel its title, Fallen Angels, and
suggests the innocence and naïveté of these young male soldiers.
The statement also highlights Carroll’s kindness and sensitivity,
two of the traits that make him such a beloved commander and a good
role model and leader. Unlike many other officers, such as Captain
Stewart, Carroll is deeply affected by every death he sees. He does
not try to increase the enemy body count to raise his chances of
promotion. His only aim in Vietnam is to keep as many of his men
alive as possible. It is his death—which occurs several weeks after
he makes this statement—that shakes the squad irreparably.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Fallen Angels!