O'Brien captures the conflicts of being a soldier. A soldier faces the dramatic heights of fear, violence, sadness, anxiety, regret, and so on. But the solider must deal with all of these things ("carry" them) and move on. Soldiers can't outwardly show the grief they carry because they feel obligated to show strength and solidarity. Despite carrying all of this emotional anguish, the soldiers feel that they must also act the part of the soldier. Thus, O'Brien calls their emotionless demeanor "stage-presence" as if they are acting or posing:
There were numerous such poses. Some carried themselves with a sort of wistful resignation, others with pride or stiff soldierly discipline or good humor or macho zeal. They were afraid of dying but they were even more afraid to show it.
Note how Kiowa describes Lavender's death:
Like cement, Kiowa whispered in the dark. I swear to God—boom, down. Not a word.
Kiowa wants to say more about this in some attempt to understand and grieve. But the others...
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