"The shell that hit the foxhole Luz and I were in was a dud," Donnie explains. "The one that hit Muck and Penkala's wasn't. That's just the way it was." He compliments Muck and Penkala, praising them as great men and alerting us that Malarkey took their deaths the hardest. His best friends in Easy were Compton, Muck, and Penkala, and "in less than a week, he'd seen two of them die." Thank God Malarkey is still with us. Someone picks a broken string of rosary beads -- the crucifix intact -- from the Muck/Penkala hole and slowly hands it to Malarkey, who cradles between his fingers. He's so crushed, he can't cry. He's dry.
"We were all worried about Malarkey," Donnie narrates, switching the scene to later that day, watching Foy and preparing to invade it. Gently, he nudges his friend. "Didn't I hear you say you wanted to bring a Luger home for your kid brother?" Donnie asks. Malarkey turns his head slightly and allows a wee flicker of a smile. "Yeah," he breathes. Donnie fumbles inside his coat and produces a Luger. "Why don't you give him that?" he offers. Malarkey takes it, staring wonderingly at it, and recognizing it as Hoobler's. He seems to thaw a bit, regarding the pistol almost as a piece of the past, a reminder of people and places and faces from Easy's combat history. Donnie then kindly informs Malarkey that Winters needs a runner for a few days, and wondered if Malarkey might want the job. Malarkey thinks for a minute, then slowly shakes his head, regaining more and more fragments of his former cheer. "Tell him thanks," he says, still gazing upon the Luger. "I'm gonna stay here." Donnie tells Malarkey to join him at HQ for an hour or two to bid Buck farewell. "All right," Malarkey agrees, still dazed. Donnie exposits that going even just fifty yards away from the front lines for a couple of hours can completely regenerate a soldier's fraying psyche. Cut to a young man on all fours, scraping frenetically at the rocky snow. "I saw a soldier try to dig a foxhole with his bare hands," Donnie recalls. "He didn't notice that he'd torn off all his fingernails. I got him out of there quickly; not for his sake, but for ours. Fear is poison in combat...destructive, contagious." Donnie gently puts the kid's helmet back on for him and helps him off the ground.
Donnie then watches as Malarkey and Compton say an awkward farewell. He repeats that Buck was forever changed that day, as we see him stoically salute Malarkey and hop atop a Jeep, riding off into the sunset. But not, fortunately, out of the opening credits, so we'll all still get our fix of strapping Buck.