Gold Oak Leaves

Gold Oak Leaf

Sunday, November 3, 1968

Chaplain Starling didn’t show up for church services.  There was no explanation, and we used the extra time to take a nap.  Fernando woke us up with the news of Captain Smotherman’s promotion to Major.

Reb had made yellow cakes with chocolate frosting for dinner.  He got up and went to the bakery with an idea.  One sheet cake was cut in half and turned upside down on itself, leaving a middle layer of chocolate frosting.

He mixed a white frosting of powdered sugar, shortening and evaporated milk, and the double-layer cake was frosted.  Reb decorated the cake with a gold oak leaf (the rank insignia of a major) using yellow food coloring.

We set the cake in the Officer/Staff mess on a side table next to the coffee.  As the steak BBQ began, I gave Top Culverhouse a heads up about the cake, and he came in to check it out.  The look on his face was grim, “Who told you to do this?”  I answered, “No one, we did it out of respect.”

After a long silence the Top said, “The CO is sick, and he’s leaving for the hospital tomorrow.”  He didn’t know if Smotherman would be in for dinner.  He said the cake was a nice gesture and thanked us.

Smotherman did show up, and everyone sang, “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow.”  He came into the galley to thank us but looked pale and shaky.  Something was wrong with him . . . this war, the stress, the diseases and maladies were just too much for some people.  It made no difference what rank or status a person was; these things happened.

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