January 24, 1968
Today was Stewart’s last day on Hill 65. I had told him to sleep in; his last night was a quiet one. After breakfast Stewart came into the mess hall, and we wished him well. It was obvious he was glad to be going home, but there was a hesitancy as if he felt sad about leaving us behind. After Stewart was gone, Britt confided to me that everyone who left had that look. His theory was that the hardships and experiences endured together throughout the year created a special bond. It was a tough idea for me to swallow. I thought, I would go home in a minute and never look back.
With only myself and Britt to do the cooking the workload became more stressful. We had five “mess men” (Marines assigned to mess duty), but they were generally used for cleanup duties. I took it upon myself to use “Murphy” (a new Grunt on mess duty) for cooking assignments.
According to protocol Murphy would be with us for three weeks. Usually new arrivals were given mess duty so they could adjust to their new surroundings. Murphy was a Lance Corporal and had two years of service. He learned fast and became a proficient cook. He was especially good at sharpening knives (His father was a butcher). He enhanced all our kitchen cutlery and taught us to properly hone the blades with a chef’s steel.
Papa-San, observing Murphy, taught us to put a better edge on a blade by using a leather strap and proved it by shaving hair off his stump arm with a knife. We now had really sharp knives.
Next Edition: Captain Cavagnol