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Dime is like the foul-mouthed, verbally abusive father figure you've never known you wanted. He's a stereotypical drill sergeant who leads Bravo with "instructional aggression" (whatever that is) and an iron fist, but secretly he has a mushy heart of gold.
Here's our first glimpse of Dime:
Staff Sergeant David Dime is a twenty-four-year-old college dropout from North Carolina who subscribes to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Maxim, Wired, Harper's, Fortune, and DicE Magazine, all of which he reads in addition to three or four books a week, mostly used textbooks on history and politics that his insanely hot sister sends from Chapel Hill. There are stories that he went to college on a golf scholarship, which he denies. That he was a star quarterback in high school, which he claims not to remember, though one day a football surfaced at FOB Viper, and Dime, caught up in the moment, perhaps, nostalgia triggering some long-dormant muscle memory, uncorked a sixty-yard spiral that sailed over Day's head into the base motor pool. He has a Purple Heart and Bronze Star from Afghanistan, and among the other company sergeants his tag is "F***in' Liberal," but what was extraordinary about Bravo, the miracle that only gradually became apparent to Billy, was the presence in the squad of not one but two demonstrably superb warriors, neither of whom had any use for the prevailing orthodoxies. (Private.28)
So Dime is wicked smart, and he's probably understimulated.
That's a dangerous combo.
Dime's boredom and dissatisfaction with the "prevailing orthodoxies," as Fountain puts it, makes him come off as a bitter, angry little gnome of a man, though all that bluster is for show. Deep down, Dime's a man who's in touch with his emotions and isn't afraid—under moments of great duress—to show them. Now, don't get us wrong: this dude's not shy about telling anyone who'll listen how much he loves his guys, but he still does it in a way that seems tough and rugged:
"Listen, you see these men?" Dime gestures around the table. "I love every one of these mutts like a brother, I bet I love them more than their mommas even, but I'll tell you frankly, and they know how I feel so I can say this right in front of them, but just for the record, this is the most murdering bunch of psychopaths you'll ever see. I don't know how they were before the Army got them, but you give them a weapons system and a couple of Ripped Fuels and they'll blast the hell out of anything that moves. Isn't that right, Bravo?"
They answer instantly, with gusto, Yes, Sergeant! (Virtue.85)
See what we mean? Dude's not shy about telling people how much he loves Bravo, but it's not like he's kissing them on the heads or tucking them in at night, either.
Oh, wait. That's not quite true: after the infamous Battle at Al-Ansakar Canal, Billy is suddenly exposed to the full brunt of Dime's furious emotions:
By then Dime was weeping too, both of them hacking, gagging on snot, covered in mud and blood and sweat as if they'd just that moment climbed gasping and retching from some elemental pit of primordial sludge. I knew it would be you, Dime was hissing over and over, his mouth a butane torch in Billy's ear, I knew it would be you, I knew it I knew it I so f***ing knew it I am so f***ing goddamn proud of you, then he grabbed Billy's face in both his hands and kissed him full on the lips like a stomp, a whack with a rubber mallet. (Virtue.97)
So, uh, yeah—Dime is not shy about expressing his affection for his men. He's tough, he's demanding, he can be a taskmaster, but he respects and cares about the guys in Bravo, and he shows them you can be tough but also honest about your feelings.
In fact, Dime's a crucial figure in our story precisely because he fills a rather glaring hole in the family lives of most of the Bravo men: Dime's a father figure. That's right—positive male figures and role models are few and far between in Billy Lynn's America:
For proof all you had to do was take a quick poll of Bravo. On Holliday's last visit home before shipping out, his brother told him, I hope you f***in' die in Iraq. When Mango was fifteen his father cracked his skull with a monkey wrench, and Mrs. Mango's comment was, So maybe now you'll stop pissing your father off. Dime's grandfather and one of his uncles were suicides. Lake's mother was an OxyContin addict who'd done time, his father a dealer who ditto. When Crack was eleven years old his mother ran off with the assistant pastor of their church. Shroom, he barely had a family. A-bort's father had been the deadbeat poster dad for the state of Louisiana, and Sykes's father and brothers blew up their house cooking meth. (Bully.216)
Dime may be unconventional, but at least he's lookin' out for his guys. It's no wonder they feel more loyalty toward Bravo than to anything else.