First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross is changed by the death of one of the soldiers under his command, Ted Lavender. A change is also experienced by the other soldiers in the once seventeen-man platoon, but none as telling as Cross". He transforms both as an individual and a commander. His once treasured fantasies involving Martha are no longer dear, he becomes a realist. Cross also becomes a stricter commander, a "stickler" for order. .
Lavender's death causes Cross, like his other soldiers, to realize the harsh truth of the war. Previously these men partake in whatever duty they have to perform with a sense of detachment. They have no drive or passion. They have no sense of why they are even in this war; this is not their war to fight. Regardless, soldiers are trained to battle, and that is what they do. Kiawa's thoughts reveal that "the emotion wasn't there and he couldn't make it happen." To them it is just an "endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost." Death is not on their minds; death is not going to happen to them. Then Lavender is shot. The men understand that this war is real, people will die. Cross becomes emotional. He believes that Lavender's death is his fault. He thinks he somehow failed as a leader. Cross decides the situation will never repeat itself.
The Lieutenant is overcome with grief. He decides to prevent similar occurrences; he will "perform his duties firmly and without negligence." He will address his men, bearing the brunt of Lavender's death on his shoulders. Cross also plans to make his men "get their shit together, and keep it together, and maintain it neatly and in good working order. He will not tolerate laxity. He will show strength." All of this so another man will not die, leaving his blood on Jimmy Cross's hands.
Cross's feelings for his beloved Martha also change. He recognizes the fact that he is holding on to a love that will not blossom.