Got Milk? At Danang, we were lucky enough to get a steady supply of Australian beef. It was common for us to have steak grilled to order at least once a week. But, too much of a good thing is never good. When grilled steak seemed to became a daily ration, some of us began asking for hot dogs and hamburgers. Although we had just about anything to eat or drink, the one item we could never get was fresh milk. All of the milk at Danang was reconstituted -- powdered milk and water. Then one afternoon, several of us hit the mess hall for lunch. It was another hot and humid day, and the cool dining room was a welcomed relief. We proceeded through the chow line; filling our trays with everything on the line. We parked our trays at one of the tables and grabbed our canteen cups for something to drink. Powdered milk or bug juice (Koolaid) were our usual choices. However, on that day, we noticed an unfamiliar large aluminum pot at the far end of the chow line. A small sign in front of the pot read, “Fresh, Cold Milk.” Now you would think that there would be a platoon of Marines elbowing their way to that pot, filling their cups to the brim. Not a single Marine was interested. You see, you must never forget one very important thing about The Corps -- Marine humor. There isn’t another human being on this planet that enjoys pulling off a prank or joke any more than a Marine, and some Marine cooks were master pranksters. The five of us sat around our table and continued discussing the contents of that mystery pot with the intriguing sign. We noticed that the pot was sweating, and there was a big ladle hanging from its edge. We decided to at least examine the contents. Two of us walked over with canteen cups in hands and peered into the big pot. I took the ladle and dipped it into the white liquid being chilled by a block of floating ice. It looked like milk, and smelled like milk. The mess cook was standing a few feet away watching me. I asked if it really was fresh milk. He nodded in the affirmative, his smile broadening into a big grin. It was do or die. My mother could never keep enough milk in the house when I was a kid. I liked it that much, and it had been over a year since I had tasted a fresh, cold glass of the white nectar. If this was a joke, so be it. I tipped a ladle of the milk into both of our cups, brought my cup to my lips, and took a sip. I couldn’t believe it. This time I swallowed a full measure. Not only was it cold, fresh milk, it was the richest, sweetest milk I had ever tasted. The rest of the guys were already stampeding towards the pot. I don’t know how much milk the five of us drank that day. I only know that within a few minutes we and the few other Marines in that mess hall had emptied that big pot with gusto. Later, the mess sergeant told me he had made a deal with a local farmer to get a couple of gallons of water buffalo milk! We never saw that big pot, again. Only a piece of apple pie or a handful of Oreos would have made that day any more perfect.
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Chow at a Marine air wing was always a little better than food you would find at a Marine infantry base. Maybe it was because of the pilots and their crews. I think we lucked out because the mess sergeants in charge of our mess halls were great cooks and managers, using their creativity to develop appealing menus.