Richie Douglas, an enlisted man who shares Army quarters with Roger Moore, Billy Wilson, and Martin. Richie is effeminate and open about his homosexuality and his attraction to Billy, though the other men refuse to take him seriously. Deserted by his father at the age of six, Richie is almost paternally protective of the troubled Martin, trying to cover up the suicide attempt and to deal with the problem himself. Richie is immediately suspicious of Carlyle and warns the others that he is dangerous.
Carlyle, a newcomer just out of basic training. An angry black man from the streets, Carlyle is dressed in filthy fatigues and is nervous, fidgety, and suspicious. Drunken and reckless, he takes Roger Moore and Billy to a brothel, then later makes sexual overtures to Richie, who is strangely uncomfortable with these advances. Carlyle starts a fight with Billy, cutting him on the hand and then fatally stabbing him in the stomach. When he is discovered by Sergeant Rooney, Carlyle murders Rooney as well.
Billy Wilson, an enlisted man. White, trim, blond, and in his mid-twenties, Billy is the only one greatly bothered by Richie’s jokes about homosexuality. He is also very serious about the Army and the war, though he has a morbid fear of the snakes in Vietnam. A complex, sensitive thinker, Billy has always felt out of place, especially while growing up in Wisconsin, where, at the age of sixteen, he wanted to be a priest so that he could help others....
(The entire section is 638 words.)