Sleeping during the day was a change for me. My brain had adjusted to the sounds of outgoing artillery, incoming mortars, the rumblings of tracked vehicles and helicopters. The Admin truck had its own unique sound which meant “mail call.” It was always the highlight of my day.
Fernando would pull the truck next to the mess hall to be unloaded and take the red mailbag to Top Culverhouse in the Battery Office. It was a daily routine, and everyone would gather, hoping for their name to be called. I received a letter postmarked from Laguna Beach.
Jenny was finally up to date with my letters. Her parents had brought them to her from Glendale. It was difficult to keep track of her whereabouts, and we seemed to always be a little out of sync (the 10-day turnaround time for the mail caused this issue).
The latest news: Jenny was invited to go to Catalina Island for a week with my family. As a 12-year-old, I had learned to swim in the crystal clear water of Avalon’s pebble beach. The floating raft (30 feet offshore) was my ultimate goal. At the end of our vacation, I took a deep breath, thrashed my way out and proudly waved to my parents on the beach. Diving off the raft, I swam underwater back to shore.
I showered before the dinner shift and relieved Sumo in the mess hall. We still had fluctuating headcounts due to the constant changes in activity on Hill 65. There was no coordination. If a platoon of 30 Marines moved to a different location, the food prepared for them was thrown away. However, not having enough food was a crisis so we always cooked more than was needed.
I wrote to Jenny late at night from the bakery and wondered if she would detect the fragrance of maple and cinnamon in the letter. I imagined her reading it on the beach in Avalon Harbor and faithfully writing back as she sat under the umbrella.