The main character of this story is Lieutenant Jimmy Cross in the Vietnam War. This story is told by an unknown narrator. The main idea of this story is to tell about the many military men like Cross who carry things with them, and the significance about it. Cross carries letters from a woman named Martha whom he loved dearly. Martha was a lady he dated before he joined the Army. He thinks about her all the time. At times trying to interpret the letters she wrote him, and he also constantly thinks about whether or not she is a virgin. He loves her so much, but the way the story shows it, it seems as though he is unsure whether she loves him the same because of the content of her letters.
Even though the thought of Martha upsets him it also comforts him. He continues to keep her letters but also continues to walk around sad and feeling guilty because he regrets not getting intimate with her. Before he left he wanted to tie her down and touch her knee. Which was what he considered intimacy.
The narrator also states what the other soldiers carry with them. This introduces the others to the reader because the things they carried described them in a way where it identifies them. For example Henry Dobbins carries extra food; this could mean he is afraid to starve. Ted Lavender carries tranquilizer pills; he may have issues with stress or staying calm. And also Kiowa who carries a hunting hatchet, this shows that he is protective by carrying a weapon.
In the end Lieutenant Cross still feels the same way he did about Martha, and he continued to carry her letters even though he was filled with regret from the past.