When Richard McDowell reports at the induction center he is relieved that the draft is no longer a concern. He does have to think about killing in a war he does not believe in. He is optimistic about his plan to become a medic.
The army doesn't listen. Broken promises lead to jungle-training at Tigerland. Hope is dashed as he moves closer towards Vietnam, and further from any chance to re-train as a medic.
Richard fights with greater resolve to control his destiny. Friends come forth. Drawing helps him stay awake. He copes by playing music and observing; and learns to kill by day, while building a case against it at night: keeping the deal he made with the devil.
There is little reason for Richard to expect a favorable outcome. He goes with curiosity, to see the face of war. And he comes back to tell of the best and worst of man in the War and the Dark Stranger.