One of the advantages of mess duty was getting to eat first, before the chow line opened. There were no worries about finding a place to sit, or sitting elbow to elbow and rushing to wolf down your food. It wasn’t fine dining, but there was less tension.
We were cleaning up our trays before opening when we heard the explosion. A scattering of voices came from the India Company compound, and they were followed by shouts of “Corpsman.” It was still dark outside, and the sky was heavy with overcast, but we could see activity near India’s CP.
We opened for breakfast, not knowing what had happened. Usually someone in the chow line would give us the scoop (skinny). Asking about it was bad style. If we were patient, the news would eventually be blurted out by some individual wanting to feel important.
Finally it came, “Someone fragged Papa Sierra.” The bully Platoon Sergeant was shredded with shrapnel and waiting for a Medevac. He had reached his troops’ limit of verbal abuse and debasement.
Grenades in an Infantry platoon were the weapon of choice (everyone had them). When the smoke cleared, there was no evidence, only innuendo. Rarely was there an eyewitness.
Handley showed up late for breakfast, waiting until after the Medevac. He asked me to join him in the Officers mess. I was surprised at his assessment of the situation, “It’s a fresh start.” I suspected he wanted me to pass his words on to Tink . . . I didn’t play that game.