I knew Mama loved me, but I also knew when I got back, she would expect me to be the same person, but it could never happen. She hadn’t been to Nam. She hadn’t given her poncho to anybody to wrap a body in, or stepped over a dying kid.

Richie expresses these sentiments in Chapter 20 after he reads Gearhart’s letter to his wife. As Gearhart attempts to prepare his wife for his possible death, Richie begins to wish that he had a wife and children waiting for him at home. Throughout his tour of duty in Vietnam, Richie has longed to communicate successfully to someone back home about what the war is really like and what the war has done to him. His desire stems in part from a need to know that he will find someone understanding and sympathetic waiting for him if he returns alive. The desire also stems from a need to know that if he dies, someone back home will understand why and in what circumstances he died. Initially, Richie’s desire manifests itself as a wish for a girlfriend, as he imagines that a girlfriend might be the sort of person who could truly understand what he has to tell. Now, he grabs on to the idea of a wife and children instead, thinking that perhaps they would be even better suited to try to understand what he has seen and who he has become. However, the only civilians with whom Richie can really communicate are his mother and Kenny, and he spends a large portion of his time in Vietnam contemplating ways to present the candid truth in a letter to them.