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Cross received the pebble from Martha, his girlfriend back home, but as his time in Viet Nam continues, be begins to realize that she really didn't love him, that she was only a fantasy he entertained. After he participates in the atrocities of war--killing an entire village and seeing men he loved die--he realizes he can no longer carry fantasies with him. As a result, he burns Martha's pictures and her letters and throws the pebble away. His guilt is enormous and he thinks he deserves nothing good, and the reality he has experienced has been so harsh, he can no longer entertain sweet thoughts, hopes for the future.
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