Wednesday, March 27, 1968
Sumo and I were preparing lunch and noticed Reb had been gone for a while. I went to the hooch and found him bent over on his cot, crying. I assumed it was about Cobb’s death; we were all trying to deal with the issue. Reb was almost incoherent and was mumbling about not having slept for days. He said, “I’ve been having hallucinations . . . seeing things that aren’t there. His brain was not adjusting to the artillery, and he’d laid awake in his cot all night. I asked if he could sleep during the day, and he said, “I don’t know.” I told him to take the day off and try to sleep . . . we would talk later.
Sumo and I agreed, if we sent Reb to the Corpsman, we might lose him. The stress was different for everyone, and we needed to find some sort of balance for him. The combination of witnessing the Sergeant Major’s body bag at Headquarters and now the death of Cobb was adding anxiety to Reb’s plight. I checked in after lunch, and he was sleeping soundly.
I asked Sumo if he thought we could put Reb on a night shift and have him set us up for breakfast. Sumo said, “There’s only so much he could do at night, he’d be done in an hour.” Then the thought struck me . . . in Steward School we had a night baker. We rotated the duty of working as the baker’s assistant, learning to make cinnamon rolls and doughnuts for the officers mess.
Finally I decided, “I’m going to add a bakery to the mess hall.” I showed Sumo where the addition could be. It would be an 8’X8′ addition for Reb’s baking activities. Sumo laughed so hard his belly was jiggling, and he had to hold himself. He thought of it as a joke, but I was serious. I said, “Imagine one person coming down from a gun crew and picking up breakfast for the whole six-man team.” We could serve ammo cans of assorted doughnuts . . . there would be no mess to clean up. I was excited about the idea, and Sumo said, “You need to take a cold shower.”
Reb came into the mess hall just before dinner, refreshed, and thanked me for letting him sleep. We talked about his situation, and I eased into the conversation about him being a night baker. He said, “So I would be working alone at night?” I said, “Yes, you would be the chief baker and would have your own space.” His eyes lit up, and there was a spark of enthusiasm.
This plan would cause me to sleep in shifts while I trained Reb, and hopefully, his abilities as a baker would prove worthwhile. Sumo was a bit skeptical but promised to support the idea. We started that night, and I slept for three hours as the sweet dough was rising. We made maple bars, cinnamon twists and powdered jelly-filled doughnuts.
I went to bed at 0200 as Reb was decorating his products. They were amateurish but tasty, and I had no doubt he would master this craft (he was an artist and thrived on creativity).
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