Jamal, a medic, informs Richie that Captain Stewart has reported three kills for the patrol despite the fact that really only one enemy was killed. Richie wonders about the dead soldier’s family, his life, and his hopes for the future. Walowick, another member of the squad, urges him to stop worrying about the dead soldier; the only thing that matters is that Richie himself is still alive. Richie comes down with a terrible intestinal disease and spends several days recovering. Johnson and Walowick get into a racially charged fight when Walowick calls Johnson a “cootie.” Peewee asks Richie to write a letter to Earlene on his behalf, since it is too painful for him to write it himself. Because Richie misses a patrol with his own squad while he is sick, he is sent on patrol with another company.
During a patrol with a different company, Richie’s squad accidentally opens fire on one of its own platoons, killing more than a dozen American soldiers. Richie is distraught that so many people are dead because of this sheer carelessness. Later, Richie approaches Lieutenant Carroll to ask where he can buy a knife to send as a birthday present to Kenny. Lieutenant Carroll gives Richie a beautiful silk jacket to send to Kenny instead. Haunted by the scenes of chaos and confusion that he has witnessed, Richie asks Brew to show him where the Lord’s Prayer can be found in the Bible. Brew lends Richie his Bible.
I didn’t like having to convince anybody that I was the good guy. That was where we were supposed to start from.See Important Quotations Explained
The bossy Corporal Brunner tells the squad that it is going on a pacification mission to another village. The squad members must convince the villagers that they, and not the Communists, are their allies in the conflict. Richie is disturbed that there is any doubt about which side is good, but he needs to believe that his side is unquestionably in the right. He is further bothered by the fact that the villagers are afraid of him and his friends. Richie does not want to think of himself as a frightening killer and cringes when Lobel compares the squad to outlaws from cowboy movies. During an otherwise uneventful mission, Peewee buys several homemade remedies from a villager, including a potion that is supposed to encourage hair growth. Back at the base, the squad members are happy to learn that they are going on another pacification mission the following day. Hours later they find out that this mission has been assigned to another group: Captain Stewart does not want his soldiers going on pacification missions because these relatively safe missions do not add to the enemy body count.
Peewee receives an apologetic letter from Earlene, telling him that she plans to name her next child after him. Lobel receives an angry letter from his father that is filled with antiwar sentiment. Lobel laments the irony of his situation: he joined the army to please his father by proving that he is not a homosexual, and now his father hates him for becoming a soldier in what he regards as an unjust war. Richie receives a letter from Kenny, who wants to join a basketball league but does not have enough money to enroll. Richie sends the money immediately. He feels good that Kenny still needs him.
Two female American Red Cross workers come to the camp, and one of them asks Richie what he is going to do when he gets home. The question mortifies him and sends him into a painful recollection of an episode in high school when a guidance counselor laughed at him for saying he wanted to be a philosopher. Ever since then, he reflects, the question of his future has made him feel uncomfortable.
Analysis: Chapters 7–9