Fourth and finally, there is the universal perspective of the soldier as one moral agent among many, including the soldiers on the other side.
The fourth perspective is the one we normally associate in the contemporary world with the word "morality." It is important to note, however, that each of the perspectives above is, or can be seen as, a moral or ethical framework.
If the task of the soldier is to survive long enough to return home, then the high command seems bent on forestalling or preventing that outcome almost as much as the enemy, by sending him repeatedly into combat.
If the leaders of the high command are not the soldier's friends, however, certainly the enemy, who intend to kill him, are even less so.
From the perspective of the individual, the mission of saving Private Ryan is a colossal mistake; or, as they describe it in the language of the GI, "fubar." Captain Miller's unit is being sent to rescue Ryan so that he may be sent home to his mother.
But why should Ryan be deserving of such treatment?
The Perspective of a Member of a Small Combat Unit Unfortunately, the perspective of the individual does not describe accurately the situation in which Reiben and others find themselves. Only the morality of the family can claim equal antiquity, and the individualism that is part of family life as I have described it is surely a more recent invention.
They are not, after all, civilians, but members of a military unit. The morality of the small combat unit is the morality of the tribe.
(Think in this context of the scene in which a German bunker disgorges several German soldiers, on fire from the assault of a flame-thrower, and an American soldier shouts, "Don't shoot 'em, let 'em burn.") The bonds that form among combat soldiers are very deep, perhaps as deep as those within the family.
This friendship has been glorified in some of the greatest literature in the history of the world.