Sunday, April 14, 1968
Easter Sunday was expected to be traditional, even in Vietnam. The baskets of colored eggs were on the tables and were refreshed throughout brunch. Captain Robb came in early and said, “Nice job on the decorations (meaning the baskets).” As he went through the mess deck entrance, the “HE IS RISEN” sketch loomed overhead, and he turned and nodded yes to the message.
Lieutenant Martin and Chaplain Starling came in together, and Sumo said, “How do you like the decorations?” Starling turned to see the sketch and said, “The Lord is risen indeed!” Lieutenant Martin stared at his plate and never made eye contact with us.
Later during the meal, Captain Cavagnol entered the galley through the back door and could see the Easter baskets and the sketch, “Excellent” was his only comment. Just as he made this remark, I saw an egg fly across the dining room, then another . . . then a full-fledged egg fight. I started for the mess deck, and Cavagnol grabbed my shoulder (holding me back) saying, “They need to do this.” All the eggs were thrown as Cavagnol entered the scene, and there was complete silence. He gave a short pep talk.
“We’ve had a difficult time these past few months, and you deserve to let off steam. I am proud of the job all of you have done and the sacrifices you have made. Let’s have a moment of silence for the fallen.” A few Marines broke down . . . there were plenty of tears. He ended his talk with an order, “No one leaves until the mess is cleaned up.”
For me the acknowledgment of doing a good job made the incident worthwhile. We continued serving brunch until 1100 and rearranged the dining room for Easter services. As Reverend Starling presented the Easter message to his subdued congregation, the sun came out from behind a cloud and rays of bright sunlight streamed in behind him. At this point, “He is Risen” was a miracle everyone could believe.
After the services a small group of Grunts came to the mess hall, and a young Sergeant said, “Work party reporting for duty.” Captain Robb had asked for those who participated in the egg fight to come forward. They were ordered to report for cleanup of the mess hall as a punishment. I told the Sergeant the mess had already been cleaned up, “You’re Dismissed.” He asked me, “What should I tell Captain Robb?” I thought for a minute and said, “Tell Captain Robb work parties should be coordinated through Captain Cavagnol.”
During the evening meal, Captain Robb was not interested in cooking his own steak on the BBQ (it would require him to interact with the troops). He picked a pre-cooked steak and asked, “Why don’t we have the traditional baked ham?” I explained about Hill 37 shorting us the smoked Virginia hams, and even though we specifically asked for them, they refused to give us our allotment.
After Robb finished his dinner, he came back to the galley and wanted to talk about some issues. “Why didn’t you tell me about the hams?” I answered, “Sir, we stay in our chain of command. I did report it to our First Sergeant, and it was recorded in the food journal.” Then he asked, “Why did you dismiss my work party?” And again I answered, “Sir, we stay in our chain of command. Work parties come to us through our battery Gunny.” Robb then said he would work this out with Captain Cavagnol, and I stood at attention and said, “Aye Aye Sir!”
Next Edition: Finishing Touches