Sunrise Over Fallujah Summary
Brace yourselves, people. This is a novel about a very recent war, and things are going to get intense, fast. And we're not talking about intense as in "Wow, I ate that whole pizza and now I feel like I have cheese running through my veins." We're talking blood, explosions, and death.
Okay: now that you've been warned, we're diving in.
Meet eighteen-year-old Robin, who goes by Birdy (get it?). He mostly talks directly to the reader—that's you—but the book is also sprinkled with Birdy's letters to his parents and his Uncle Richie, who was in the Vietnam War. To his parents, Birdy mostly writes cheery letters telling them not to worry. Only his letters to Uncle Richie hint at more of what's really going on, both in the war and in his head.
The novel starts when Birdy's in Kuwait, waiting with his new unit to see if there's going to be a war at all. We meet some of Birdy's unit along with him: a blonde, sassy woman named Marla and a Georgia man named Jonesy, whose dream is to one day open a blues club.
Jonesy and Birdy decide to watch each other's backs…and a bromance is born.
When it comes time to assign people to squads (each squad rides in the same Humvee), Marla, Jonesy, and Birdy are grouped together, along with their immediate boss, Captain Coles. It's a good group all around.
After watching a lot of videos about the war, and reading some very confusing Rules of Engagement about who they can and can't shoot, Birdy's unit is sent into Iraq. And that's where things get very real, very quickly.
In a town called An Nasiriyah, Birdy and his fellow soldiers find a weapon called an RGB launcher (as in a tool to launch a grenade) inside a family's home. It smells like it's been fired recently, so the soldiers are ordered to take the boy from the home outside and shoot him if he runs. Outside, a sniper shoots at them, the boy starts running, and they kill him.
The sight of the dead boy messes Birdy up pretty hard. It makes him feel sick. He almost pukes.
And this is just the beginning.
Next, they drive into a town called An Najaf, where they pick up a prisoner of war, an old man. On their way to the next checkpoint, they ask the man what he did, and he explains that he had a gun in his home that he bought years ago, and that he had no intention to shoot it at the Americans.
We soon learn through Birdy's letters that he made it to Baghdad, and that the war is over (!). Quick, right? He expects to come home soon.
Not so fast.
Problem is, just because Saddam Hussein's troops surrendered doesn't mean the separate religious groups in the country—the Shiites and the Sunnis—suddenly love each other, or that everyone loves the Americans.
Birdy's unit is called Civil Affairs, which means they have to carry out a wide range of tasks involving getting the civilian population to trust the American troops. They're ordered to travel to a village where the U.S. accidentally bombed a school to offer their sympathy and medical assistance. Captain Miller, a medic, complains about the assignment, but they go anyway.
Birdy and a translator try to visit the village chief and buy something from his store, but he refuses their money. Eventually, he agrees to speak to their commander, and gets the women together to yell and spit at Miller, Coles, and the others. Then he takes their money. Yeah. It's not pleasant.
The squad is also sent to a village called Ba'qubah that put out a request for medical treatment for their animals, but when they get there, they find wounded children. A group called the fedayeen had come to the village and forced the villagers to fire at the Americans. Some soldiers don't want to treat children who fired at their troops, but Miller insists on helping, and everyone else joins her.
In between dangerous missions, the soldiers watch a lot of television. On TV, they're making it seem like the conflict is over, which doesn't really match up with what Birdy and the others are seeing on the ground. They wonder if the media is hiding the truth on purpose…which kind of messes with their heads.
As if things aren't complicated enough, the soldiers start witnessing IED (improvised explosive device) bombings. Birdy sees a Humvee of Marines blow up while he and Marla are trying to go shopping, and they can't find any enemies around them. They think IEDs can be set off by a cell phone, or something that doesn't have to be close by. It's terrifying.
There eventually comes a tip about where IED detonators might be—in a civilian house. They search the home of some adults and little kids and almost give up when Marla finds detonators hidden inside a jar of flour.
Occasionally, Birdy's squad gets to do positive work, like when they're ordered to reunite a boy with his family. After searching one morgue and a few hospitals, they find him in a prison and return him to his mother. It's an "aww" moment all around. In another village, Birdy starts kicking around a soccer ball with local kids. Birdy's unit returns a few weeks later, having sharpened their soccer skills, but there are teenagers waiting for them and they get their butts kicked on the soccer field once more.
One day, Birdy's unit is ordered to attend a ceremony to turn over policing of the highway to Iraqis. It's more of a media stunt than something real—the Iraqis do drills for the camera, but on the way back, the media bus is hit by a bomb. A shoot-out between the soldiers and some gunman follow, and another soldier named Pendleton gets killed. His body falls on Birdy as he opens Pendleton's Humvee door.
IED scares keep getting worse. Birdy's unit is ordered to stay in the Green Zone (the part of Baghdad where the army is set up) for two weeks. They get their mail and argue over Looney Tunes (fun) and the war (not so fun).
In a city called Fallujah (title alert!), they're sent out to a village to dine with a sheik to try and foster cooperation between him and the army. That night, they stake out in a hospital, and Birdy catches two Iraqis about to rape Captain Miller. He shoots them both, and they are the first people he kills who he watches die.
Birdy's unit is sent to a rest area that's kind of like a resort. It has alcohol, junk food, and everything. Sounds great, right? Well…sort of. Soldiers tend to get sent there before they go into serious combat, and Birdy can't stop being nervous about what's coming next. Jonesy, his friend, calls it "Hog Heaven," (14.183) comparing it to the place hogs go before they're slaughtered.
So what's next for the unit? It's a mission the First (Birdy's) and Second squads were hand-picked for. They go to a village near the Iran border, a dangerous place. They have to negotiate with village leaders who think their children have been captured by Badr fighters from Iran. Actually, the Americans have the children. Captain Coles tells them he'll get their children back in exchange for IED detonators.
The squads drive back to the camp and get the children. They return and get the detonators from the villagers. So far, so good. But while they let the children off the truck, unseen fighters start shooting at the children. Jonesy shields a blind child from getting hit, but he's hit instead.
When they get back to camp, they realize he's dead.
Birdy has been hit too, and, after Jonesy's memorial service, he is going to be shipped away to Germany to have his wounds treated. The whole squad is being reassigned, and many of them are returning home to train new recruits. While saying goodbye to Marla, Birdy tells her he loves her, but Marla tells him that, "You automatically love everybody that's ducking down with you." (15.41)
She's not sure what they'd have outside of the war.
Birdy's last letter to his uncle, which he plans not to send, gets into what he thinks of the war. He thinks they haven't won, but they haven't lost either, because of the kinds of sacrifices people like Jonesy have made. He appreciates life more, but is having trouble believing in God. Basically, he leaves the war almost as confused as when he started.
- The novel starts with a letter from the main character, Robin, to his Uncle Richie.
- It's 2003, and Robin is about a hundred miles outside the Iraq border. He doesn't think there will be a real war. He thinks the Iraqis will hand over their weapons before anything really starts.
- Robin's dad was mad at him for joining the army instead of college, and Robin asks his uncle to put in a good word for him.
- In the same letter, Robin says he feels "jumpy" (P.3) but also that he sees this as an adventure.
- Major Sessions stands on small stage and welcomes the group to Kuwait. She tells them they're in the Civil Affairs unit, which will work with the native population. She introduces Captain Coles.
- Captain Coles has Robin and the rest of the unit sound-off, giving their names and where they're from.
- He tells them they're attached to the Third Infantry, who will spearhead the attack if the army reaches a combat phase. They will follow the infantry and start the process of rebuilding.
- The order has not yet been given for the bombing and removal of Saddam's regime.
- After the speech, a tall blonde named Marla Kennedy calls Robin "Birdy."
- Birdy tries to intimidate her out of the nickname but Kennedy points out that she's got an M-16.
- A guy in a camouflage do-rag and dark shades sits next to Robin.
- He says his dream is to eventually open a blues bar and play the guitar there. He says they should watch each other's backs.
- He asks Robin if he is a "hero type," and Robin says he's not.
- The flex team (which Robin is on), is sorted into Humvee squads. Robin's in the first squad, with Jonesy driving, Marla Kennedy on squad gun, Robin, and Captain Coles.
- The soldiers talk a lot about whether or not Saddam will back down. Many of the men seem eager to go to war, but Robin's just nervous.
- The soldiers mostly sit around for three days. They watch a movie about the Kurds being gassed (on Saddam's orders).
- They're given a lecture about how they'll be the faces the Iraqis remember when they think of the U.S.
- One morning, they find out the Hoodlums, a.k.a. Special Operations, left the night before. Captain Coles says it looks like the war will be happening.
- The groups get their Humvees. Robin says they should name theirs Miss Molly, a nickname for Marla, since Marla won't stop calling him Birdy. She agrees.
- The chapter ends with an email from Robin to his uncle. He tells Richie about the reporters asking them questions, and all the rules about what they aren't supposed to say or write over email.
- He says it's no problem since they don't know anything. He says he wrote a letter to his dad, and he asks his uncle to tell his father to write him back.
- A lot of the soldiers are excited about going into combat. They keep getting speeches that remind them how well-trained they are, but Robin and Jonesy aren't sure about their training.
- Robin's training involved shooting at targets that didn't shoot back, and Jonesy says his training comes from dodging drive-by shootings in the ghetto.
- One night, Jonesy shakes Robin awake to pray with him.
- The soldiers are confused by their orders. It's not clear who they're supposed to shoot.
- They were given Rules of Engagement, which are confusing, and they know if the Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis will be fighting each other.
- The bombing of Iraq starts. The soldiers watch it on TV with (mostly) quiet worry.
- Robin's squad tests their weapons. Robin can shoot targets while stationary but is off-base while on a moving Humvee. Luckily, Marla is good at both.
- They also receive their protective gear, which they're told can make the difference between life and death.
- Some Specialists ask Robin and Jonesy if they'd like to join a prayer group. Jonesy says no, that he only believes in the blues.
- When Robin points out that Jonesy had woken him up to pray the other day, Jonesy says that was his testicles talking.
- After lunch, they wait for fuel and talk to women from another unit. They talk about one of their Rules of Engagement—that sometimes locals shoot into the air in a non-threatening way and they shouldn't shoot back.
- They travel to Iraq all night and into the morning, hearing gunshots. As they reach the border, they see body bags for the first time.
- The squad's orders are to follow the Marines, secure their position, and establish lines of communication.
- Marla tries to set up a TV to "get the scores" (4.4), but they mostly see Marines being interviewed and explosions.
- Then a sandstorm starts. The soldiers have to take cover for the whole two days it lasts.
- When it ends, they clean up their equipment and the captains get a TV going. They find out that the crew that left before them suffered casualties, and three women were captured. One of them was a woman they'd spoken to a few days before.
- They head toward the place where the women were captured: An Nasiriyah. Their orders are to try and get information about what might've happened to the women.
- As they roll into town, they see smoke coming from a building. It smells terrible.
- During their house-to-house search, someone finds an RGB launcher. Robin's unit walks into a room with an old woman, old man, young girl, and boy around his age.
- They smell the launcher and realize it's been fired recently. At the sergeant's orders, they point a gun at the boy. They're told to shoot him if he moves.
- Through a translator, the woman tells them he's her grandson and that he's good. She begs Marla to take pity on her, as a fellow woman.
- They take the boy outside.
- A sniper shoots at their heads. The boy takes the distraction as an opportunity to run, so they shoot him.
- Robin watches the grandmother coming out of the house to see her grandson dead, and he tears up.
- While the dead boy is lying on the ground, kids surround some of the soldiers, asking for candy. One of the other soldiers tells Robin that you get used to killing.
- Robin's letter to his uncle comes next. He tells Richie about watching the boy die and says he's dealing with it by keeping the memory outside himself.
- A medical truck arrives and starts treating Iraqi civilians.
- Captain Coles gives the unit orders to leave for An Najaf, where they will be helping a medical unit. They get in the car.
- Robin offers to relieve Marla of squad gun duty, but regrets it as soon as he takes the gun. It's scary and after awhile, his legs ache.
- As they approach the town, they hear all sorts of guns firing. They pull off the road half a mile from the town to spend the night.
- In the morning, they roll into town. They get shot at by a few people in shadows but shoot back and kill them.
- They meet up with a soldier who leads them to a makeshift hospital inside a café. It's filled with civilians who were wounded by shrapnel and flying debris.
- Robin's squad takes a prisoner with them in their car, an old man. Jonesy gets their translator, who is riding with them, to ask the man what he had done.
- The man answers that he's been good all his life, but has an AK-47 in his house that he bought years ago. They try to tell him that he'll be okay, but he doesn't believe them.
- The leave the man at a command station. Their orders are to go to a mining area next.
- The soldiers are all bothered by the fact that they're leaving each place so fast. They can't get anything established anywhere.
- En route, the Humvee slips into mud that smells like human waste. The soldiers can't get it out, so nearby Iraqis bring over a rope, tie it to the vehicle and their mule, and have their mule pull it out of the mud. They stay the night at the next station and shower.
- The chapter ends with two letters from Robin. The first is to his mom and dad.
- He emphasizes that he isn't in much danger and that the war should be over soon.
- He tells them how everyone calls him Birdy. We might as well start calling him Birdy too.
- Birdy's letter to his uncle is next. He says that the war is over—that he's just ridden into Baghdad and the Iraqi 5th Corps have surrendered.
- The chapter starts out with the men angry that they've been ordered to paint port-a-potties. They've mostly hung out in Baghdad since they entered a few days before.
- Captain Coles calls the squad into a meeting in the officers' mess tent. The squad is ordered to travel to an area to repair relations with a community whose children were killed when a bomb hit a school.
- Captain Miller resists the plan, saying a smiley face won't help those people.
- They travel to the area and visit the store where the chief works. They try to talk to the chief and offer him money, but he won't take it. He demands to see their commanding officer.
- They get Coles and take him back to the store. The chief has brought over some mothers whose children have died, and lets the mothers yell and spit at them for a while. Then he takes the money.
- On their way back, an ambulance pulls up and men jump out and fire at them. The squad kills them and speeds back to the first checkpoint.
- Birdy tries to sleep but he dreams about guns pointed at him and wakes up. It bothers him that the attack wasn't planned. It was random, and didn't make sense.
- Another letter to Uncle Richie. Birdie talks about being scared after the ambush, and about his parents. He'd asked his dad for photos and his dad sent him a picture of Morehouse College.
- The squad's next orders are to travel to a nearby village called Ba'qubah. The people there have requested medical supplies for their animals.
- When they arrive, they find wounded children instead. All the villagers, including the children, had been ordered to fire at Americans by a guerilla group called the fedayeen.
- Lieutenant Maire doesn't want to help people who shot at Americans or walk into a trap, but Captain Miller insists on staying. So they do, and try to help the children.
- One of the children is too wounded to be helped. Another is dead. Ahmed helps the villagers dig his grave.
- The squad returns to Baghdad and gets their mail. Birdy gets a letter from his mother but it makes him miss home too much, so he decides to open it later.
- Ríos curses when he gets his letter, which tells him his little brother is thinking of joining a gang. When the others point out that they're kind of like a gang, Ríos says at least their gang is respected.
- Marla and another woman, Owens from the medical squad, come in with a TV they'd bartered for and set it up on Jonesy's bed. They watch the footage of the war, but it's all cheering—no mention of places like Ba'qubah.
- That night, Birdy opens a letter from his mother. She tells him about the goings-on at her church and tells him not to be too much of a hero.
- Birdy goes to sleep thinking how he's not a hero at all.
- There's still fighting in and around Baghdad, and bombing at night. You wouldn't know it from watching TV though, which is still saying the war is over. Marla wonders if they're covering stuff up.
- Jonesy pretends to be a TV announcer and interviews people in their squad using his flashlight as a microphone, making everyone laugh.
- Marla and Barbara ask Birdy if he'd like to come shopping with them. They're going with chaplains to visit a mosque and then plan to stop at a market. Birdy agrees.
- They reach the Shiite mosque and get a tour, which is a little over Birdy's head. He can't keep up with the names and dates.
- They head back to Baghdad and meet with some Marines who let them come along toward the area where the market is.
- On their way, a Humvee across the avenue blows up.
- The men run over and pull bodies out of the flaming car.
- Birdy looks for a sniper but he can't find anyone in sight to shoot.
- It was an IED (improvised explosive device), which can be set off from far away with something like a cell phone. There are two American casualties and one Iraqi.
- They return to base and tell everyone else what happened. Marla asks Birdy if he's okay and he says he doesn't think there's an okay anymore.
- The chapter ends with Birdy's letter to his father. He tells him he knows they have their differences, but he wants his dad to know that doesn't mean he doesn't respect him.
- Ríos gets a huge package. The only package he was expecting was a tiny toy monkey he'd bid on Ebay. (When he was a kid, he had a monkey figurine that his abuela said would bring him luck.) It turns out the Ebay seller sent him a huge taxidermied monkey.
- Marla takes the monkey and names it Sergeant Yossarian, a Catch-22 reference.
- Some members of Civil Affairs are sent to a village where civilians were killed. Captain Miller complains that women are always sent to clean up the messes the army made.
- When they reach the village, there's already military there. Another Civil Affairs unit, the 422nd, are repairing the water supply. They say the villagers want nothing to do with them.
- Miller takes off her helmet to show that she's a woman. She talks to Iraqi women and gets them invited to tea. Birdy, Miller, Marla, and some medics go into the woman's house.
- The hostess, Halima, speaks English. Over tea, she explains that she studied at the University of Washington.
- Halima tells them that Ba'athists (Saddam's party) had come to their village and told the men that it was their duty to fight for their country. They piled the men into a truck and started driving away, with the children watching.
- Then, an American plane flew overhead and one of the Ba'athists shot at it. The plane dropped a bomb on the truck and everyone died, with their children watching.
- Birdy and the women try to apologize and leave Halima's house.
- Birdy sees a boy kicking a soccer ball and motions to it, and soon, they get a soccer game going: village kids against the soldiers.
- The village kids win by a landslide. Then the soldiers give the families water and leave.
- Jonesy and Harris get into an argument because Harris says women are like whores. Classy. They almost punch each other but the other guys stop them.
- The squad gets a new assignment from Intelligence. A man named Lieutenant Davis explains the mission. They have a tip that IED's are being made in one building, so their orders are to search it.
- The squad has to break down the door to get inside. Inside the building live two men, two women, and several small children.
- It just looks like a normal house. The soldiers question the adults, who claim to be just living their lives.
- When no one finds anything, Davis apologizes and promises to pay the family back for the damage to their door.
- Then Marla finds detonators in the flour.
- They arrest the adults and leave.
- Birdy thinks that he won't survive the war, because all the soldiers, like Marla, are naturally better at war than him. He hadn't found any detonators when he searched.
- A rumor goes around that Major Sessions got passed up for a promotion. Birdy expects Marla to mind, since they're both women, but Marla doesn't because Sessions is always behind a desk handing out orders instead of doing on-the-ground work.
- Sessions orders the squad to find a woman's son because he's from a tribe they're hoping to influence.
- With Sessions with them, they visit a morgue. Sessions is rude to the staff and then throws up when they're in the room with the bodies.
- Session returns to the Green Zone, or safe area, and the rest of the group decides it's pointless to go to morgues when they don't know what the boy looks like. Instead, they ask around at hospitals and see terrible wounds in the process.
- They visit a scary-looking prison next. The prisoners are a mix of prisoners of war, looters, and people who've been out after curfew.
- Jamil, a native Iraqi they're using as their translator, questions five of them and finds the boy.
- Sessions holds a press conference and Marla gets interviewed. The reporters make her out to be a hero.
- Sessions doesn't want to come with them to take the boy back, but she misses the good part—reuniting the boy with his mother.
- The squad is glad to make people happy for a change.
- Birdy's email to his uncle ends the chapter. He asks Richie to ask his mom to send toy dolls for the kids, and says that a guy killed himself that day. The soldiers are getting spooked by the random bombings and how the Rules of Engagement keep changing.
- A Polish man named Jerry is put in Birdy's squad for a week. He can play soccer, so they have him train them so they can beat the Iraqi kids in Ba'qubah.
- When they get there, there are teenagers from three villages to play them instead of little kids. They kick the Americans' butts.
- The boy who recruited them, Omar, tells the soldiers they won because they're Muslim and calls each of the soldiers an infidel.
- Things are slow for a while. The soldiers design a pretend trap for Wile E. Coyote after watching too much Looney Tunes.
- They also talk a lot about what isn't being shown on the news. The official word is the war is over, but men keep getting killed.
- When it's almost time for bed, Birdy's squad is ordered to a highway to be part of a ceremony to turn that area over to the Iraqi police.
- When they get there, it's all a press exercise. The press takes footage of the Iraqi police doing drills, but everyone knows there's no real story.
- On the ride back, a series of IEDs go off, and then shots ring out from the distance. Though the IEDs hit the press truck, none of the press are badly wounded.
- But gunshots hit a squad car, injuring Victor's hand and killing Pendleton. Birdy's the one who finds his body.
- There's a memorial for Pendleton, but no one has anything to say about him, because no one really got to know him.
- The chapter ends with a letter from Birdy to his mom, thanking her for the dolls. He doesn't mention Pendleton's death.
- All of a sudden, the squad is being told that no one can leave the Green Zone in small groups or in unarmored vehicles.
- Marla tries to get Captain Coles to find out more. He hates her attitude, but does anyway.
- Turns out they found Sunni civilians shot in the back of the head in a barn, execution-style. They are wondering if it was the death squads—which they don't know much about, except that they're associated with the people they put in power.
- Captain Coles asks Birdy what he thinks of war. When Birdy says he doesn't like it, Coles says war makes him appreciate his family.
- He feels bad that it takes a war to make him realize that.
- Birdy thinks that's true, because he's constantly thankful that he isn't the one being blown up. He feels that gratefulness more than he feels sympathy for those that are dying
- They stay in the Green Zone for two weeks.
- The unit is sent to form an alliance with a tribal leader named Hamid, and to visit a hospital in Fallujah.
- They're led by a man named Major Scott. Birdy's getting nervous.
- Birdy and his squad get to have dinner with Hamid, who pays them compliments about America.
- Major Scott stresses cooperation, but Hamid mostly evades the question. He says the Americans' war is already won, and the real war now is over who will rule Iraq.
- They enter Fallujah to camp out overnight in the hospital. Miller decides to treat the patients…even though Coles says she isn't allowed.
- As everyone else falls asleep, Marla tells Birdy about her life being passed around to different foster homes.
- Birdy goes to the bathroom and finds two Iraqi men trying to rape Miller. He shoots them both.
- Miller has a breakdown, and Birdy isn't much better. He leaves Fallujah as a man who has definitely killed.
- Marla is the only one who gets it. She tells Birdy, "If you need to be with somebody, let it be me." (14.144)
- Sessions' boss Rose sends the unit to As Sayliyah for a briefing. Coles doesn't seem happy, nor does Sessions.
- They get a couple of days of rest and relaxation, which means they're probably going to be sent into combat afterward.
- Even though he has nothing to do, Birdy can't relax. His hands keep shaking, and he keeps reaching for his gun.
- The unit is given the vaguest speech ever. All they know is that their mission will be covert, and they'll be reassigned afterward.
- The First and Second Squads are chosen for the mission, along with the medics.
- Birdy writes a letter to his uncle. He asks Richie to tell his mom not to worry.
- They're being sent to a marshy area where children have been kidnapped by Iranian Badr fighters. Their job is to negotiate to bring the children back in exchange for info about detonators from the villagers.
- When they arrive, a man named Captain Roberts explains the mission in more detail. Turns out he already has the kids—they were kidnapped as a favor to him. The whole negotiation thing is a lie.
- They're given one of the boys and drive with him to the village chief.
- Coles tells the chief he can get the kids back if the chief can get them detonators. At first the men pretend not to know what he's talking about, but when he walks away they relent.
- The squad returns to Roberts, who puts the kids in their truck. They ride back.
- When they return, Birdy gets the detonators, but when they bring the children out, shots are fired at them. Coles orders the squad to get in the car and leave the children, but Jonesy throws his body over a blind child to protect him.
- Birdy goes after Jonesy, but he's hit, first by a bullet, then he's knocked off his feet by the impact of a bomb. Someone drives him back to the truck. On the truck, Marla says Jonesy was hit.
- When they get back to camp, Jonesy has blood on his neck. Miller pushes everyone away and starts to tend to him.
- Birdy prays, for the first time in awhile, that Jonesy won't die.
- Birdy heads back into the tent. Miller tries to check his wound, but Birdy tells her to worry about Jonesy. Miller wails that Jonesy is dead.
- She calms down and numbs Birdy's leg. Roberts goes on about the success of the mission, but Birdy doesn't care.
- The camp isn't attacked, and they're sent back to Baghdad.
- The memorial service for Jonesy is held. Birdy is glad the blind child had someone to reach for in his last moments.
- Miller and Birdy nod at each other. They don't need to speak.
- Everyone is reassigned. Birdy gets a purple heart and is sent to Germany to get his leg treated before he gets reassigned.
- He says goodbye to his squad buddies, including Marla, who's going to the States to train new recruits.
- Birdy tells Marla he loves her. She says she can't deal with that right now, but she's giving him a lot of thought.
- The book ends with a letter to Uncle Richie. Birdy says that if the official word is they won the war, he'll have doubts, but he thinks it's wrong that they lost the war too, knowing what his buddies gave their lives for.
- He doesn't know if he'd recognize his squad buddies outside Iraq. He says he doesn't understand God.
- Finally, he tells his uncle that he understands why he never talked about Vietnam. He doesn't know if words could make people understand what they went through.