What happens at the end of the book and explain the significance.

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In Chapter 21, Gearhart asks the squad if they'd like to be broken up so all the squads are about the same in size. He warns if they stay together, they will be sent on more missions, and the chances of death will be greater. In spite of this, the men decide to stay together.
In Chapter 22, the squad is sent to patrol a nearby river. Richie and Peewee get separate from the rest of the squad after they decide they must retreat. They hide in a hole all night and then go to the landing zone, hoping helicopters will rescue them. They find Monaco there and realize the enemy is using him as bait to kill anyone involved in the rescue attempt. Peewee and Richie let the pilots know about the trap, getting wounded in the process. The two of them and Monaco are rescued.
In Chapter 23, Richie and Peewee are to be sent home, but Monaco is told to go back to his unit. While waiting to go home, Richie reads the newspapers, realizing they don't give a true account of what is really happening in Vietnam.They return home, and Richie realizes he's really going back to a normal life when he hears another passenger complain about the wine selection on the plane.
These last four chapters are the end of Richie's growth from an innocent young man from Harlem to a soldier who has seen the ravages of war. He tries to explain it to his brother in a letter and tells him he doesn't feel like a hero. In order to survive what he's been through, he will need his family to understand he's not the same person. He also feels obligated to tell the "truth" about the war, even if it is so ugly that people don't want to know.
These chapters also show how the war is a vicious cycle when Richie and Peewee, as they are leaving Vietnam, see the new recruits along with the body bags of the dead soldiers. The two men know that the America they are returning to doesn't want to hear the real story about the soldiers who return or about Vietnam at all. The two men are numb and scared as they return home. They're worried their survival at home will be as hard as their survival in the war. The incident on the plane where the passenger complains about the war tells Richie they're returning to a world concerned with such trivial matters, a world that won't care or understand what they have been through.
This is an excellent account of the Vietnam War. The ending brings back sad memories of how our soldiers were treated after they served in Vietnam. The American public treated them shamefully and, without meaning to, blamed them for the unpopular war. We wanted the veterans of this war to fade away just like we wanted the war itself to disappear.

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