Perry is just a young man and so are many of his fellow soldiers. Richie had a very tough life in Harlem; his mother is an alcoholic who spends her meager income on booze and his father deserted the family years earlier. Perry's mind is the only place where he can exercise control, but the war presents an increasingly intense and frequent interruption to his protective state of introspection.
Fallen Angels was read, by me, several times in approximately sixth grade to junior high school, and I still can't believe that pre-teen Rachel chose to wrench herself from an endless diet of RL Stine and Christopher Pike for a serious book about a serious moment of historical relevance like the Vietnam War.
For as poor as my reading recall is, that's really something.
Now, Perry is able to see the world beyond himself. The image of an angel is pure, innocent, and untouched - like the nervous, fidgety Jenkins himself. WDM's story captures a whole generation.
The story that unfolds first is of Leon Lai playing a hired killer who works Every time a mortar went off, I jumped. Previously, Perry could only think of other soldiers as killers, and the army as a whole as a killing machine. He decides to join the army because his mother cannot afford to send him to college, although he is very smart, and he does not want to keep living in Harlem.