Vietnam War Uncertainty in Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

769 Words 4 Pages
Uncertain of his future goals, seventeen-year-old Richie Perry, a black high school graduate from Harlem, travels to Vietnam to fight in the United States Army. When Richie leaves basic training for Vietnam, he harbors a host of illusions about the war and the army. He confidently believes that the medical profile he has received for a knee injury will be properly processed and prevent him from engaging in combat. He also believes in the flurry of rumors about imminent peace and in the prevalent romantic myths about warfare.
When Richie first arrives in Vietnam, he befriends Harold “Peewee” Gates and Jenkins, two new recruits assigned to the same squad. A sergeant assures them that they should encounter only easy, light work, as there is
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When Richie’s platoon leader, Lieutenant Carroll, is killed during a combat mission, Richie begins a serious search for answers to why he and his fellow soldiers are even fighting in Vietnam in the first place. Though his friends insist that such thoughts are futile and dangerous, Richie feels compelled to find meaning within the chaos. He also longs for some way to communicate his confused thoughts and emotions to his family, but he remains unable to do so. Richie is not sure how to sort out the emotions he feels or how to communicate them effectively to civilians who have never seen combat.
As Richie searches for meaning in the war, he also searches for his own sense of self. He struggles to unravel his motivations for enlisting in the army, wondering whether his reason was a selfless one, based on the desire to earn money to provide for Kenny, or a selfish one—simply to escape from the hard life he faced in Harlem. Richie also forces himself to confront the uncomfortable question of what he will do when he returns to civilian life. Though he is highly intelligent and highly motivated and has ambitions to become a writer, his family is too poor to send him to college. Richie’s father abandoned the family years ago, and his mother has since become an alcoholic. Richie is afraid that without an education he has no career potential, and he is unsure what he has to look forward to if he survives.
Richie is wounded in a battle and transferred to a hospital. During the
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