In "Sweetheart of the Melody Tra Bong", O'Brien uses the storyline of Mary Anne Bell to illustrate the transformation of little, innocent, naive boys who set off to war and frequently return as calloused guys. Her story, as told by Rat Kiley of Alpha Firm, symbolizes the experience that befall young soldiers who keep a comfortable life in the home and start a journey in to the unknown. They get to Vietnam innocent and "clean" and so are seduced by the "dirty" terror of war and so are ultimately changed, in varying degrees, into another person. Rat is susceptible to exaggeration, but he insists this report is absolutely true.
In this history, Rat was assigned to a tiny medical detachment when he earliest arrived in Vietnam, overlooking a river named the Melody Tra Bong. The machine had eight other medics (zero officers) plus they provided basic emergency and trauma good care to casualties earned by helicopter. Also, within the compound had been six Green Berets who stayed to themselves but nevertheless play an essential role in the report. Because the compound was isolated rather than attacked, the soldiers dedicate their time handmade cards and volleyball, ingesting beer, and discussing cars, baseball, and young ladies. One young medic, Tag Fossie, had the thought of taking his girlfriend, Mary Anne, to the substance from his hometown of Cleveland Heights. After confusing logistics and far expense, Mary Anne arrived six weeks down the road the re-supply chopper, "tired and somewhat misplaced" (pg 94), because so many different recruits appear. She was "clean" and innocent, "this seventeen-year old doll in her goddam culottes, perky and fresh-faced, such as a cheerleader visiting the opposing groups' locker room. Her quite blue eyes seemed to glow."