Friday, August 9, 1968
Reb tried to sleep before taking the Admin run to Da Nang, but his nervous anticipation of leaving for R&R to Sidney worked against him. Hopefully he would be able to rest at the R&R transient center. Sergeant Stanek thanked us for the hospitality. It was obvious he was looking forward to his more comfortable barracks at Wing Headquarters. We shook hands and never saw each other again.
Our Friday Southern fish fry was still a popular meal, and we managed to include the fresh hush puppies Reb had perfected. Captain Robb came through the chow line and ordered us to hold dinner for a platoon arriving late. He complained about the dry cornbread.
It was 1900 when the platoon arrived, and I recognized them as Lieutenant Hale’s Marines. They were silent and somber . . . It was the familiar look grunts had when something went wrong. We served them and remained silent; it was not our place to ask any questions. Eventually someone would tell us of any bad news. Finally a Sergeant asked permission to use the mess deck for a meeting later, after dark. I said yes, offering cookies as a refreshment, and he snapped, “No Cookies! Lieutenant Hale was KIA.”
The details of Hale’s death were vague (it was none of our business and rude to ask about it). Their meeting was short and to the point: “We will patrol the road as usual, stay off the shoulder, follow the vehicle tracks and remain spread out.”
I planned to continue making the pastries while Reb was gone to Sydney, and I started a batch of sweet dough which would take a few hours to rise. After a light sleep, I went to the bakery and made my own version of Reb’s doughnuts, twists and maple bars.