As a nine year old, Timmy O'Brien is in love with Linda. It is his first close encounter he has with death and using stories as a coping mechanism for it.
After receiving a draft notice for the Vietnam War, Tim tries to run away to Canada. He gets close to the border, but imagines seeing all the people he would disappoint. He ends up going to war because of the shame of doing otherwise.
Tim-\It's not terrible, but you left out Vietnam. Where's Kiowa? Where's the shit?Norman Bowker
Tim has trouble coping with the first person he killed - or saw killed - during his time in the Vietnam War. Tim can't stop thinking about the man and the life he cut short. Kiowa tries to comfort him.
Tim witnesses the death of his best friend, Kiowa. He tries to save his body from sinking into the field, but is unable to do so. He has reason to believe that his actions led to Kiowa's death and carries the guilt past the war.
Tim writes the story of Kiowa's death on behalf of another soldier, Norman Bowker. Bowker has PTSD and commits suicide when he can't cope with "civilian life." Tim realizes how much the war and Kiowa's death still affects him.
Tim takes his daughter to Vietnam for her tenth birthday to share his history. He returns to the field that Kiowa died at and places his moccasins in a river nearby, finally having closure about one of his most traumatizing experiences.