The warm weather of Hawaii was like a salve to the Marines who had just come home from deployment. Christmas decorations and lights strung on palm trees swaying in the breeze created a welcoming experience. The sergeants had formed an alliance while in a combat zone and had even gained the sincere respect of their junior Devil Dogs. Two sergeants in particular remained Ferdinand and Steele. Sergeant Ferdinand was damn near blue black. He had curly hair from his Hispanic side and razor bumps from his African-American side. Steele was a few shades lighter and completely African-American. He possessed no razor bumps. The former stood at about 5'8" and the latter walked around at 6' even.
“I think we can do it, man,” Ferdinand said.
“We’ve got just two breaths away to get clearance. Once Gunny Creflo signs off on our event, we’ll be free and clear,” Steele said. They walked from the chow hall back to the shop.
Staff Sergeants Linda Geert and Michael Vann discussed plans for the short stint in the balmy weather. Linda was Black, too. And so was Michael just a few shades separated the two from each other.
“Linda, Mike,” Ferdinand said. “Where’s Gunny?”
“He’s out with the Gunner. Why?”
Steele stepped in at this point. “We wanted you two to ask him whether we can have this Black History Month dinner here before we ship back to the lower forty-eight,” he said.
Linda and Vann looked at each other. “I don’t think he’s going to go for it.”
“And why not?” Ferdinand asked.
“Isn’t it like two months away?” Vann said.
“Yes, Mike, but are we going to be in sunny Hawaii for that time?”
“No, but I don’t see how the Christmas season can be preempted.”
“Are you Black?” Steele asked with one eyebrow higher than the other.
“I’m a man of color who happens to live in America. And have we forgotten that we’re Marines? We’re all green any goddamn way.”
“You let them talk that into you,” Ferdinand said.
“Look,” Linda said. “We’ll talk with Gunny, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be on board with any of this.”
“Thank you, Linda. Mike.” Ferdinand said. He pressed his palms in a praying manner and bowed slightly.
Once Gunnery Sergeant Trey Creflo had returned to the shop. He was in a good mood. That was a plus. He had deep brown skin with signs of gray forming at his regulation mustache and atop his cropped haircut.
Linda and Vann appeared at the Gunny’s desk.
“What is it?” Gunny Creflo didn’t even look up from his paperwork.
“Sorry to bother you, Gunny. But Sergeants Ferdinand and Steele are looking into a….,” Linda stopped.
“A Black History Month celebration,” Vann said.
“A what? Isn’t that two months away?”
“Yes, but we’ll be back in the mainland before then and they want to celebrate here.”
The Gunny looked pensive. “And they want to do this before Christmas?”
“I think that that’s their plan….” Vann said.
The two sergeants marched through the hatches with every ounce of respect but layers of confidence enshrouding it.
“What’s this about you two wanting to host an African-American History party?”
Linda and Mike looked down at the deck.
“You see, Gunny, we—” Ferdinand started.
“Save it. It’s not going to happen. When we get back to the contiguous United States, then we can start thinking about a Black History Month celebration.”
“But Gunny….”Steele said.
“Don’t ‘but Gunny’ me, Steele. I still have to look out for your welfare. I still have to make sure my Marines are in line and on point. That means that you should be concentrating on finishing your post-deployment checkups. Have you done that?”
“No, Gunny,” Steele said, deflated.
“And you Ferdinand. Aren’t you Hispanic?”
“Yes, Gunny, but….”
“Save it. What you two need to be doing is worrying about your status as recruiters in the coming months, not some shindig pushing a racist agenda. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Gunny,” Steele and Ferdinand said in unison.
The staff sergeants and sergeants filed out of the Gunny’s office but left the hatch ajar.
“All we wanted to do was to have a get together before we get off of this island. What better time to do it while we’re all here than right now?”
“I think that a Christmas party would suffice,” Linda said.
“Linda, are you even listening? By the time Christmas rolls around or the time nearing Christmas, a quarter of our unit would’ve shipped out already,” Ferdinand said.
“It would be cool if we could just band together one more time as the sole Black shop as far as I can tell, and invite the other Black Marines from the other shops, too.”
The Gunny listened in on his fellow Marines. “Steele, Ferdinand.”
The sergeants charged passed the staff sergeants.
“I heard what you said out there. And I just had a thought. We are the only Black shop, at least in Hawaii, and it would be nice to have a Black History Month celebration before the weather dips too low. Also, you’re going to want to make sure that you plan a Christmas party so that everything’s inclusive.”
“Aye, Gunny,” Steele said, a smirk snaked its way onto his face.
“Thank you, Gunny,” Ferdinand said. The two sergeants exited the room with smiles on their faces. Staff Sergeants Geert and Vann just shook their heads.
“I can’t wait to see what the sergeant major and the colonel have to say about this,” Gunny Creflo said with his palms relaxed behind his head, his eyes closed. He opened his eyes, banished the thought and continued on his work.