Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa
When I came home that afternoon, Miko and Corporal Wheaton were in a frenzy. Don was going crazy, preparing my uniform. He was actually using a ruler to measure the placement of the various items on it. There was my rank insignia on the shoulder boards, The shoulder boards themself and the caduceus on my collar.
Miko was in a similar tizzy, but for a different reason. As soon as I walked into the house, she grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the bath. “Missy, hurry, no time, hurry.”
I realized that I no longer was the lord of the manor and allowed her to drag me to my bath. For the next several hours, she fussed and fumed over my appearance. I started amusedly tolerating her efforts, but my patience started to grow short as time wore on.
When she started to redo my makeup, I called a halt. “MIKO, STOP.” I almost yelled. She drew back with a horrified look on her face. “Girl, take a step back. I have been getting dressed for most of my life. Tonight will not be any different. You go and fix us a pot of tea and some snacks. I’ll finish up here and join you in a couple of minutes.”
Miko stood there with a look that changed from horror to tragedy. She then turned and bolted from the room. I knew that this was not good. Don Wheaton spoke up from the door. “Not a good move Doc. She is worried that you will look foolish. She places a lot of her own self-worth on how people see you. Up to this point, she has been so proud of you. She could burst. And in her society, there is a truth there. Miko has severed her ties with the local Tong. They don’t like it, BUT you have such a powerful presence in their community, you are immune. You would be, anyway, being a member of the Regiment. Even so, the Asian people hold you in almost religious honor. I seriously doubt that anything could or would happen to you. And your actions in that Arroyo showed many people that you can be very dangerous on your own. I think that the Tong might be a little, or more, afraid of you and what you can do. Miko benefits from that. If you were to lose face, she would too.”
“And you, Don? Is your status in the Regiment tied in with me? If I fail or look bad, is it going to reflect on you?”
“Yes, and No, Doc. I’ll admit that being your orderly has given me a certain status. But I already have my position in the Regiment. Miko, however, would have to go back to her community, and with a loss of face, she wouldn’t have the advantages that she has today.”
I stepped into the kitchen. Miko had her back to me and was working on a tray, tea, and snacks. “Miko, I’m sorry about that. I guess I’m just as nervous as you are.” As I was speaking, I reached out and touched her shoulder. She spun around and grabbed me in a hug. The tea was cold by the time we were finished talking.
When I came into the dining room, it was crowded. It seemed that all of the officers and senior NCO’s were in attendance. There was no reception line on this occasion, So I immediately searched for a friendly face. This wasn’t difficult. I spotted Julian and his wife and made a beeline towards them.
I wish it were that simple. It took three or four times the time it would typically take. I was stopped repeatedly by well-wishers and friends that I had no idea existed. I couldn’t offend these people, so I had to stop and exchange a few pleasantries. Then continue on.
Eventually, I was standing next to Julian and Ethel. He seemed to be highly amused by my walk. While we were making small talk, I noticed Linda Price, Captain Ellenwood, and his bride. They were standing nearby, and people were stepping up and talking to them.
“Julian, tell me about that young lady. According to Mrs. Price, she will soon be a patient on my rotation.”
“Ah yes, Our newest contribution to marital bliss. That is Susan Ellenwood, nee Gibson. She is a war orphan that was fostered by Linda. Her other foster child is currently going through basic training. I’m not sure about her history. That generally is a topic that is avoided. There was an incident a couple of years ago. But it seems she has weathered the storms.
When Colonel Anderson came into the room, He slowly made his way to the Ellenwood’s. After a moment, he glanced over towards me. His eyes widened when he saw my uniform. Then a slight smile crossed his lips. From there, He wandered around the room, talking with different groups. Eventually, he ended up at the head table.
After about an hour of general conversation, Colonel Anderson stood and tapped his glass. After the room quieted down, he said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please be seated.” This was followed by a short time while the attendees sat at their assigned tables. Colonel Anderson remained standing.
After everyone was seated, Colonel Anderson raised his glass. “To the Country.” Everyone stood and raised their glasses. They responded, “The United States.” and took a sip.
Joshua again raised his glass. “To the President.” The response, “God bless and keep him.”
A third time, Joshua raised his glass to the elderly gentleman to his right. “To the Commandant.” This time the toast was repeated, “The Commandant.”
Colonel Anderson raised his glass for the fourth and final time, “To the fallen and missing.” There was no response to this toast. The assembly bowed their heads, and nothing was said.
After a minute, Colonel Anderson raised his face and cleared his throat. “We have a full schedule, Tonight folks. Some rare things and others, not so rare.” He turned to Major Gaunte, who handed him a piece of cloth. “One of the rare things we are doing tonight is adding a battle streamer to the Regimental banner.” As he was saying this, he had stepped up to the trooper holding that flag. When he got close, the trooper lowered the banner. The Colonel then held the streamer out for all to see. It was embroidered “Arroyo Battle.” He then tied the streamer to the pole.
The room responded with applause as the flag was raised again. I could see that there were many more streamers on the flag pole. I wondered if anyone knew all of them. When I asked Wheaton about it later, he laughed. “Doc, there isn’t a man mounted in the Regiment that couldn’t recite the tale for each and every one of those streamers.”
Once the flag was upright again, Anderson stepped back and saluted it. He then returned to his place at the head table.
When everyone was seated again, Joshua continued. “Tonight, we honor 3 of our number that distinguished themselves at the Arroyo Battle. Captain Ellenwood?”
Ellenwood stood and walked to the front of the room. “Captain Ellenwood,” Joshua started, “Was in command of the Security detail of the Medical Support Circuit team that we sent out to help our neighbors and friends. As you know, the team was attacked and forced to defend themselves against a determined enemy. Captain Ellenwood was wounded during the initial attack and was unable to continue as the leader.” As he was talking, Colonel Anderson pinned two medals and a ribbon to his uniform. “Captain Ellenwood is awarded the Regimental Achievement medal for his command of the team. He is also awarded the wound medal and the Combat badge.”
Joshua stepped back and saluted Joseph. Ellenwood returned the salute, turned, and while being applauded, returned to his table and the much more personal award from his bride.
“Captain Ellenwood wasn’t the only person who distinguished themselves on this expedition. Sergeant Pointer?”
Michael stood from the table of senior bachelor NCO’s. As he walked to the front of the room, I was surprised by the ribbons that already decorated his uniform. There were already four rows of three. Coming to attention in front of the Colonel, Joshua paused for a moment and considered where he would place these awards.