--On the dead after a firefight: "A corpse immediately takes on an appearance of loosely packed earth piled into oversized clothes."
--His deceptively simple summary of the whole event: "War is the suffering and death of people you know, set against a background of the suffering and death of people you do not."
--He also is a critical observer of his own changes: "I could no longer draw a distinction between the war and my presence in it. . . The war had become a part of me, and I a part of it. And though my recognition of that fact was unnerving, I knew that probably within my transition lay the seeds of my ultimate survival."
--Pausing to catch his breath on Thanksgiving Day: "We could mourn the dead, but we could not dwell on them; we had to look after ourselves."
--Finally, his bottom line on the Vietnam War, after the Communists wipe out the village it was his mission to protect: "Like the entire American system in Vietnam, we had fought a limited military war with constrained objectives; the enemy had fought a total political war with no preordained restrictions. We were doomed from the outset."
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.