At an unspecified time, Berlin sits at his tower, overlooking the ocean. He thinks about the soldiers he befriended during his early months in the war. Even now, Berlin isn’t sure what he can “take away” from war. He’s only learned simple, obvious lessons, like “Don’t get shot.” He checks his wristwatch and sees that it’s 5 AM. The sun is beginning to shine. Berlin wonders where Cacciato will take them—how far could he possibly go?
The notion of a “takeaway” strikes Berlin—and O’Brien—as a little ridiculous. There can be no easy lesson from an event as big, profoundly sad, and complicated as the war in Vietnam. Rather, the only way to paint a picture of Vietnam is piece together small, often unrelated fragments of soldiers’ experiences—just as O’Brien does in this book.