In "The Things They Carried," the first story in the collection that bears its name, Tim O'Brien introduces the reader to an assortment of young men fighting in Vietnam. All of them show courage in one way or another, though the pressure is usually psychological rather than arising from immediate physical danger.
Three soldiers who show particular courage are Jimmy Cross, Lee Strunk, and Ted Lavender. Jimmy Cross is the lieutenant commanding the platoon, meaning that he has to show exemplary physical courage, but also take responsibility for his men and bear the guilt when they die. Lee Strunk draws the number 17, which means that he has to undertake a dangerous and frightening underground mission, which he does quickly and without complaint. Lavender may be the bravest of all, because he is the most frightened. He takes drugs to calm his nerves, but continues to face the possibility of death and is, in fact, the first of the platoon to die.
O'Brien shows courage principally in his honest depiction of the reality of war. Within the stories, he focuses on the actions of others, and on drawing general lessons about the nature of warfare, rather than on his own conduct. Everyone in the story shows courage. The platoon members show that they are frightened by their situation, but this is only human, and there would be no need for courage if they were not afraid.