Through flashbacks and soliloquies, Joe Bonham reflects on his life before, during, and after his involvement in World War I. In these flashbacks, we learn that Joe was an average boy living a pretty average life before he decided to join the military. He has memories of fishing with his best friend, when he first made love to his then-girlfriend, and even some tender moments of his mother's home-cooking.
These moments, alongside others, help us understand Joe as a patriotic young man who wants to join the military in order to serve his country. Here is where we first recognize his love for America.
Book 2 of the novel sees Joe recalling his experience in the war and how he is hit by an exploding shell, which causes him to lose his limbs. Here is when we begin to see his love for America wane.
However, it is much later in the novel where we finally see his love for America dissipate completely and become replaced with rage. When Joe is finally able to communicate with the nurses caring for him, he requests that he display his body for others to see so that they can see the ramifications of war and the pain that it causes; he wants his reality to serve as the reality of war versus the myths often propagated. Unfortunately, his request is denied and he is left to his silent anger as faceless military officials pin a military medal to him.