Everyone was up by 0700, and we marched to the supply warehouse to turn in our gear. Rifles had to be cleaned, and there were special benches set up with cleaning supplies. Filing into the warehouse we put each item into a designated bin. Gunny Ross was standing next to the helmet bin and told Gaskins, “Keep the helmet liner” and gave him a handful of whale watching tickets. The Gunny had watched us like a hawk just as Sergeant Garnett had said, but as it turned out, he was watching over us.
The mess hall had abbreviated hours on holidays and would be open from 0930-1300 for brunch. We waited for a final briefing, and no one was allowed to leave. Although exhausted and worn down, we were anxious to take advantage of our upcoming liberty. Finally came the announcement; we would be transported by bus to our flight boarding destination at 0030 on January 5th. Anyone missing the bus would be considered AWOL and be subject to Court Martial.
After a hot breakfast I gathered my laundry bag and phoned Jenny in Laguna. This would be our last time together, and I was getting nervous about our final good-bye. There was no traffic on PCH, and I arrived in Laguna before noon. It had only been six days since I left on Christmas night, but it felt much longer.
We spent the rest of New Year’s Day curled up on the sofa and enjoyed a fire in the fireplace that night. It was difficult being apart, and we tried to take full advantage of our time together.