Gunny Pavelcek had been planning to hold a drill to test our new defensive positioning. He wanted to see how long it would take for each OP to be on station. We had a new air horn like the one Battalion Headquarters used to announce incoming rockets, and Pavelcek decided to use it for the “incoming” drill.
Reverend Starling was in the middle of one of his stories of the Gospel. Jesus was breaking up seven loaves of bread and giving the pieces to his disciples to serve in the field mess. There were also a few small fishes, and this limited menu was used to feed four thousand people.
All of us feared being called upon by Starling, and he did it regularly. I knew this story and was prepared to answer. Finally the question came, “Ptomaine, how is it possible to feed this many people on seven loaves of bread and a few fishes?”
Hoooonk . . . Hoooonk! The air horn blasted twice, and the mess deck emptied out. Everyone raced to their stations, and the drill was quickly completed. Reb and I were on top of the Exec Pit, manning the 50 cal. machine gun, when the Gunny yelled, “Secure.” Below us, Starling was standing in front of the medical hooch with his arms crossed. I shouted down to him, “IT WAS A MIRACLE.”
A group of Marines from the church service gathered around Reverend Starling as he finished his sermon. “As the Gunny has tested you with the INCOMING drill, Jesus similarly tested the faith of his disciples.” Starling always left us thinking . . . Was this a test? What was the lesson?