It made Weary sick to be ditched. When Weary was ditched, he would find somebody who was even more unpopular than himself, and he would horse around with that person for a while, pretending to be friendly. And then he would find some pretext for beating the shit out of him.
Here, the narrator explains a bit about Billy’s battlefield companion Roland Weary, a short-fused man who no one particularly likes. Weary clearly expects to get some sort of personal glory out of the war, but when even his own compatriots ditch him for being so unpleasant, glory eludes him. Weary’s presence serves as a critique of a specific kind of warmongering mindset: the kind that seeks out conflict to drown deep insecurity.
He had so much energy that he bustled back and forth between Billy and the scouts, delivering dumb messages which nobody had sent and which nobody was pleased to receive. He also began to suspect, since he was so much busier than anybody else, that he was the leader.
Further proving how little meaning lies behind his actions, Weary walks around executing fake orders, feebly attempting importance. While Billy’s response to feeling insignificant is to give up, Weary resists with all his might, insisting that he is important. The fact that his own self-importance convinces him he is the leader of the group represents a jab at the self-important leaders who started the war in the first place.
Now, lying in the ditch with Billy and the scouts after having been shot at, Weary made Billy take a very close look at his trench knife. It wasn’t government issue. It was a present from his father.
Having once again failed to make any glorious impression on the battlefield, Weary shows off an expensive knife to Billy. Weary desperately wants to feel special somehow, and he details the knife’s various features, like the spiked brass knuckles on the hilt. Billy’s lack of interest only further infuriates Weary, once again stymieing his endless quest to impress somebody.
“Saved your life again, you dumb bastard,” Weary said to Billy in the ditch. He had been saving Billy’s life for days, cursing him, kicking him, slapping him, making him move.
After Weary yanks Billy out of the line of fire, where Billy had been apathetically lingering, he proceeds to guilt Billy about the rescue, taking any measure of superiority he can get. Weary doesn’t help his comrade because of some belief in doing the right thing—rather, saving Billy’s life represents yet another attempt to be seen doing something admirable. Unfortunately for Weary, a warzone lacks the one thing he seeks: an appreciative audience.
“When he gets out of this, by God, he’s gonna owe his life to the Three Musketeers.” This was the first the scouts had heard that Weary thought of himself and them as the Three Musketeers.
Weary casually mentions a personal fantasy to a group of fellow soldiers, unwittingly embarrassing himself. Weary feels so wrapped up in his own fantasizing and posturing that he forgets the world outside his head, where the people he thinks of as friends silently pity him. This uncomfortable moment speaks to the ridiculousness of assigning narratives of glory to conflict.