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spent another day lying around. It seemed to be what the war was
about. Hours of boredom, seconds of terror.
This statement, from Chapter 11,
sums up the experience of life in Vietnam for many of the young
men fighting there. While missions are terrifying, they are short
bursts of horror and violence that last only hours or minutes. Even
within missions, the squad spends much of the time waiting for something
to happen. The stifling days or weeks between missions are in some
ways even worse than the missions themselves, as soldiers are overcome
with boredom, plagued by anxiety about the next mission, and tortured
by memories of past horrors. It is during these downtimes when the
soldiers in the squad tend to be pushed to their emotional limits.
In fact, as Richie later admits, the missions bring along with them
a level of excitement that sometimes overpowers the fear; any anxieties
about the future and memories of the past fade, and the soldier
lives in the pure present, acutely attuned to his body and everything
around him. With just a few words, Myers conveys this strange timescale—hours
or days of boredom, marked intermittently by seconds or minutes
of terror—giving us a startling sense of what it is like to be a
soldier in the middle of the Vietnam War.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Fallen Angels!