Rice Hull Pillow

Hua – Mama-San’s adopted son

February 14, 1968

Sumo and I were preparing breakfast when Murphy showed up and excitedly announced the birth of his daughter. He had received a letter from his wife in Maine. We congratulated him on the good news and asked, “Where are the cigars?”

Because we were being shorted on our food allotment from Hill 37, I had decided to keep a record of everything received on our daily runs. I asked Top Culverhouse for advice on this issue, and he gave me a clipboard with paper and said, “Make sure someone issuing the food signs the daily allotment and print their name on it.”

I picked up the allotment that day and recorded everything on the clipboard. The Mess Sergeant wouldn’t sign the sheet so I ignored him and wrote his name along with “refused to sign.” I asked my driver to verify the refusal with his initials. The Sergeant sarcastically waved me off, but I could see he was concerned about us recording the details of the transaction.

After unloading the supplies, I took the signed receipt to the Top. He ordered the battery clerk, Corporal Hernandez, to set up a journal to record all the details of each transaction (time, date, quantities and names of those involved). It was all extra work for us, but I knew if I were to complain about this issue of being shorted, I would need evidence to back up my claim.

In the afternoon Mama-San showed up with a surprise. My 1st MAR DIV sweatshirt had been expertly fashioned into a pillow. The seamstress had turned the shirt inside out and cut off the sleeves. Then the arms and bottom were professionally sewn up with double seams, and the shirt was turned logo side out. Buttonholes were imbedded in the crew collar with a paracord lace fed inside and around the neck. Three black silk pods filled with rice hulls were pushed through the collar to stuff the pillow before tying it shut. The pillow conformed to my head and seemed to be ventilated. Most importantly, it didn’t absorb my body heat and stayed cool.

Mama-San would not take payment and said, “Tinh ban be.” Hua would not interpret for me but wrote it down. I asked Captain Cavagnol the meaning of the words, but he needed a reference point. I told him the story about the pillow, and his eyes lit up with a smile. “It means friendship, think of it as a Valentine.”

Sumo got a big laugh out of the situation and called it a “Love Pillow.”

Next Edition: Murphy Joins India Company

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