In June, the war comes to Devon in a concrete way when the Far Common is donated to the war effort. The campus will host a Parachute Riggers' school, and troops arrive in jeeps and heavy trucks, all painted in olive drab. No one has ever accused Gene for being responsible for what had happened to Phineas; in fact, no one talks about Phineas at all. As he watches the Headmaster welcome the assembled troops, Gene takes note of the beautiful New England day that surrounds them. Despite the trappings of war which have encroached upon the school, in Gene's mind peace still "lays on Devon like a blessing, the summer's peace," carried over from the year before.
Brinker's dad arrives at the school and asks to meet Brinker and Gene in the Butt Room. He is a tall, distinguished-looking gentleman, and he tells the boys that they are "the image of (him) and (his) gang in the old days." He is excited about the war, and wishes he were still young enough to take part in it. Mr. Hadley asks Gene what branch of the military he will be entering. Gene replies honestly that he did not want to wait to be drafted because then he would have been assigned to the infantry, the "dirtiest...(and) most dangerous branch of all." Gene has instead enlisted in the Navy, with hopes that he will receive "a lot of training, and...never see a foxhole." Brinker, like Gene, has signed up for what he hopes is a comparatively safe military assignment and is "all set for the Coast Guard."
Mr. Hadley cannot completely conceal his disapproval of the boys' approaches. He admonishes them about the importance of their war memories and the pride they will derive later if they can say that they "were up front where there was some real shooting going on." He calls this the boys' "greatest moment" and stresses that they will need to do "a heck of a lot more than just what (they) have to" if they want a military record they can be proud of. Brinker later apologizes to Gene for his father's attitude, complaining that his father and his "crowd" are responsible for the war and are forcing their sons to fight it for them. Gene reflects that Brinker's interpretation of events is ironically similar to Finny's, but for himself, he does not agree with either of them. To Gene, it seems clear that
wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart.
Gene heads over to the gym to clean out his locker. As he surveys his surroundings, marred now by war's trappings, he understands that the happy times he has experienced here at Devon are now over. Gene realizes that he is able to accept the changes with a sense of tranquility, a gift from Finny, whose vitality could not be so quickly quenched even in his irrevocable absence. Phineas had had the uncanny ability to size up the world with
erratic and entirely personal reservations, letting its rocklike facts sift through and be accepted only a little at a time, only as much as he could assimilate without a sense of chaos and loss.
By sharing this ability with Gene, Finny has left behind a legacy that enables his friend to accept what comes his way with "a glowing sense of sureness." In the following months, Gene enters the war at last, but he never kills anyone, nor does he develop "an intense level of hatred for the enemy." Gene had fought the real enemy during his years at Devon, the fear that comes from within and that causes individuals to build up damaging defenses that ultimately destroy them. Finny alone had known instinctively how to avoid this self-destructive tendency, and he had shown his best friend as well how to achieve, in all circumstances, a separate peace.