The story is told ten years after Daniels, as the protagonist, faced being drafted into the Vietnam War. Though he could have escaped to Canada as a war protester, or chosen to stay in school under a student deferment (either way avoiding being sent), believing he was "brought up differently/I couldn't break the rules" elected to go ahead and serve.
He remained in the military for "thirteen months and fifteen days", with the latter portion taking an emotional toll on Daniels ("one minute I'd kneel down and pray/The next I'd stand and curse"). The emotional problems only worsened upon his return, as he came home to a bitterly divided family – his war-protesting younger brother labels him a "killer" while his father calls him a "vet". Moreover, he began to exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from his service (constantly looking behind doors for the enemy, and exhibiting flashbacks during the rainy summer season); symptoms which ten years later continue to plague him.