In the short story "The Things They Carried" Tim O"Brien faces Jimmy Cross with the problem of surviving while fighting in Vietnam. While trying to maintain his sanity, Jimmy struggles between his old self and the person he has to become. Jimmy has to make some difficult decisions while in his tour, and most of them come to his attention after his friend Ted Lavender is killed.
Jimmy's main struggle is dealing with his friends death is to figure out a way he can become a better leader. He wants to lead his troop with confidence and preciseness. Before his friend's death, Jimmy had constructed a bulwark to separate him from the rest of the troop. Jimmy was in his own world, mainly back in New Jersey with Martha, but sometimes in a fantasy world where nothing felt real and how he would do amazing things like fly over Vietnam waving the whole madness goodbye. His misconception of fantasy and reality is one of the first things that he changes about himself in order to become a better leader. Making this decision was near impossible, the pictures that he had become inured to seeing every day were put to flame and Martha was not longer in his thoughts. .
By burning those pictures he not only breaks free from the fantasy world, but also of Martha. She was a girl back home who he had loved dearly, and had remained in contact with throughout the war. His infatuation with Martha was not a sexual one, but one that had something much greater weights toward his survival. He did not think about Martha day in and day out because she was his only true love of the world; he merely needed something to occupy his mind with. He needed something to keep his thoughts away from the horrible tragedies going on around him. He was trying to maintain his hope. Martha gave him a goal, something to shoot for, a reason not to give up so easy. Go limp and tumble to the ground and let the muscles unwind and not speak and not budge until your buddies picked you up and lifted you into the chopper.