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Richard Perry doesn't have a relationship with his real dad, but Lieutenant Carroll just might be his wartime substitute dad. At first, anyway.
Lieutenant Carroll is Perry's first commanding officer. He's also the first guy to bring up religion in the book. He says the "fallen angels" prayer (title alert) over Jenkins' body, and soon after, mentions that he'd once considered going to seminary, which is school for preachers. But he changed his mind:
"I don't have doubts about God," Lieutenant Carroll said. "I'm just not sure who I am anymore." (4.30-34)
That's deep. Also sad, for Carroll, and the sadness of losing some of his spirituality is something he seems to always wear. Of that sadness, Perry observes, "Even when he made jokes it was there." (5.64) Mega deep.
From preacher to soldier may seem like a long leap, but Carroll rocks it. He doesn't just give orders. He's always looking out for his men and asking them if they need anything. He's the only officer who takes Perry's medical profile seriously, and he buys a gift for Perry's brother and won't let Perry pay him back.
So of course you know he's totally doomed.
Jenkins' death was a shock for Perry, but Lieutenant Carroll's death is the first one that really hits him hard. Basically, they're on a mission to find Vietcong who have been attacking a nearby hamlet. Carroll is leading the way and giving orders, and they're near the end of the mission. Then one lucky shot, and all of a sudden it's goodbye Carroll.
Perry had gotten to know Carroll. And he wasn't the only one—Carroll was so beloved by his platoon that they make sure to say the prayer over him, get a letter written for his family—whatever they can do. And they wouldn't do that for just anyone who went and died on a mission.
It hits Perry even harder because he has to write a letter to Carroll's wife, so he goes through Carroll's papers. As he learns a bit more about Carroll, his death hurts even more. Carroll and his wife were planning to open a bookstore, and his wife was expecting a child.
All those dreams lost feels like a real tragedy. And for Perry, Carroll's death makes the loss more personal than it was before. Perry starts to feel the toll that the war will take on him.