July 28th, 1953
The beginnings of tears clouded Hawkeye Pierce's eyes as his chopper rose high above the landing pad of the 4077th MASH. He watched with sorrow his best friend's reckless descent down the hill that the landing pad was situated upon, and every time B.J. stuck his foot out to steady his motorcycle Hawkeye was scared to death that the small bike was going to crash. But it didn't, and as the chopper rose higher a one word message written at the edge of the chopper pad in large white stones became clear: 'Goodbye'. Hawkeye wiped a lone tear from his cheek and took one last long look at his friend's retreating figure before it disappeared into a small stand of trees. "God I'm going to miss you Beej," he muttered to himself. "Thanks for the note." Then, reluctantly, his attention turned to the small area of Korea that had been his home for the past three years. There was little indication of what the camp had once been. A stray truck or two sat near what was left of the OR, and a handful of men loaded up the last of the medical equipment. Everything else was gone, except of course Rosie's, the civilian-owned bar where he and B.J. and everyone else from the 4077 had spent so many lively nights. All the Jeeps had been driven away, and all the tents taken down and packed up, ready to be used in the next war or sold cheap to unknowing civilians with a military fetish. Except for one. Hawkeye subconsciously reached down and patted the duffel bag that contained his home away from home, the Swamp. Potter had agree as he tried to see where he was going. He knew he was being reckless and that he should slow down, but the mixture of emotions rushing through his mind - joy, sorrow, anger - didn't let him be cautious. He wondered what was going through Hawkeye's mind as he saw the stone message and the baron camp from the chopper buzzing overhead. He's probably going through the same thing I am, B.J. figured. As he disappeared into the Korean brush and left his home away from home behind, he could have sworn he felt Hawkeye watching him, but he quickly shrugged the idea off. He kept traveling at break-neck speed towards Seoul, the two physical mementos he had saved of the camp - the small 'San Francisco' sign that had hung on the signpost, and the crudely painted board with the name of his old quarters upon it - bouncing repetitively against the handlebars of the motorcycle, threatening to fall from their perilous perch. B.J. tried to outrace the sadness that trailed behind him, but it didn't work. His mind swirled with fond memories of the people he had met in this hell hole, and for a moment he wished he wasn't going home and leaving them behind. But then, as he thought about the family he hadn't seen for so long, his pain eased somewhat. Not a lot, but a little. He couldn't wait to get back to Peg and Erin, but at the same time he hated to leave these people who had gotten him through the worst two years of his life. Colonel Potter's kind fatherly smile flashed before his eyes, and Hawkeye's words echoed in his mind: "I'm never going to get over you, Beej." Hawkeye had said that as if their parting was somehow like a failed love. Then B.J. remembered his own words. "I'll see you when I get back to the states, I promise." He sighed, truly realizing for the first time how impossible staying as close to Hawkeye as he had been for the past two years was going to be. And then there was Margaret, who was probably the second closest friend he had had in that hell hole. He sure was going to miss her, but he knew he wasn't going to miss her near as much as Hawkeye was. Why don't the two of them realize how strongly they feel for each other and give in to it? B.J. asked himself. And then his thoughts turned to the three other people he had been close to. Klinger, with the crazy stunts he tried so he could get out of the army; Father Mulcahy, who B.J. knew was one of the kindest people he'd ever meet and one of the most cherished friends he'd ever have; and Charles, the arrogant major who he had shared the Swamp with for the past year. B.J. would even miss him. B.J. sighed as he tried to ignore his sadness, and as he raced on towards his plane ride home he failed to notice a lone man tearfully watching him from the back of a horse.
The solitary horse carried her rider away from the 4077th and towards the nearby orphanage. Colonel Sherman Potter rode high in the saddle, sorrowfully inspecting every detail of the war-torn Korean landscape. 'This is a sad day for both of us, Soph," Potter whispered to his mare as he patted her neck affectionately. "I wish I could take you home with me, but it just isn't possible. The kids at the orphanage will take good care of you, I promise. Sure, they might use you to plow that field of corn and cabbage they have once in a while, but I'll make sure they ride you as much as possible and give you as many treats as they can spare. The Padre told me the older kids are already working and building a stable and fencing off some land mine-free pasture for you." He patted the horse some more as he heard a motor screaming down the road he had just turned off of. He brought Sophie to a halt and turned to see what the vehicle was. A small yellow motorcycle was booking it down the road to Seoul, and Potter recognized it immediately. He smiled sadly at the bike and the cloud of dust that rose behind it, and was suddenly overcome with a bittersweet mix of emotions. As his cheeks moistened considerably, Potter thought about how much the man on the bike meant to him. B.J. Hunnicutt had been like a son to him for the past two years. "Damn, I'm going to miss you B.J.," Potter muttered. "I'll even miss that ridiculous mustache of yours." Then a new noise, the methodical whir of chopper blades, filled Potter's senses. He glanced skyward to find a helicopter, clearly marked with red crosses set in white squares, flying low and coming from the direction of the 4077th. It was no mystery to him who was aboard the small craft. "Hawkeye, I'm gong to miss you too, son," Potter choked through his tears as he waved up at the chopper. As we watched both the motorcycle and the helicopter disappear with two of his closest friends, Potter though about all the other people he was leaving behind that day. Margaret, Klinger, Father Mulcahy...Hell, he'd even miss that arrogant, pompous Winchester. He shook his head, cursing himself for giving up so easily. "Just look at me, Soph,' he told his horse. "I know better than any of the rest of them how hard and how important it is to maintain military friendships. I've been their commander for two years, I should be the one to keep this group together. And here I am acting like I'm never going to see any of them again. We're too close to just drift away like that, dammit! They're like my own children, and I know damn well that Hawkeye and B.J. are closer than brothers. I'd hate to see the friendship between them just fade away. And Margaret! She and Hawkeye love each other, even if they don't know it or don't want to admit it. And then there's Winchester. He's a stubborn fool with an ego too big for this war, but I'd like to see him try to deny how close he is to the rest of us."
By then Potter had arrived at the orphanage, and after dismounting and saying one last goodbye to the horse Radar had given him for his birthday, the former cavalry man handed his mare's reigns to a teenaged Korean boy. "Take good care of her, son. Don't work her too hard, and make sure she teaches all the kids how to ride. And be sure she gets a treat every once in a while, alright?"
The boy nodded in consent. "Yes Colonel. We'll take good care of her, sir. See over there?" he pointed to a small building just the other side of the orphanage which was surrounded by thick grass and a sturdy fence. "We built a stable and corral for her."
Potter silently gave his approval. "She'll appreciate it. And so do I." Without another word he turned his back on the boy and the horse, jumped into the Jeep loaded with his possessions that Rizzo had left for him, and took off in a cloud of dust, headed for Seoul.
In the back of a worn out Korean ox-drawn cart Max Klinger bounced mercilessly beside his new wife, and he fought off both the urge to get sick and the urge to break down into tears. Soon Lee shot him a sidelong glance, and noticed the moisture building up in his brown eyes. "Are you alright Max?"
Klinger shrugged and chuckled quietly. "It's funny. This is supposed to be the happiest day of my life. The war is over and it's our wedding day, but...."
"But you don't want to leave Hawkeye and B.J. and Colonel Potter and everyone else behind, right?" Soon Lee could understand, in her own unique way, exactly what her husband was going through.
Klinger nodded. "Right. The Colonel's been like a father to me, and Hawkeye and B.J. are practically brothers, and Father Mulcahy's about the kindest guy I've ever met. I never thought I would get this close to a priest. Heck, I'm even going to miss the majors. Major Houlihan isn't half as bad now as she was three years ago, and even Major Winchester is tolerable. They're like my family, and I honestly don't know if I'll ever see any of them again. I guess I understand a little better now what you must be feeling."
The couple was silent for a moment, but finally Soon Lee asked, "You don't blame me for keeping you here, do you?"
Klinger looked at Soon Lee in surprise and shook his head adamantly. "No, of course not! Sure, I'd like to go home, but nothing is more important to me now than my wife's happiness, and I know you won't have than till you find your family, or at least find out what happened to them. After all, I have to meet my in-laws, and we have to find them so they can come back to the states with us. Do you think they would like that?"
Soon Lee nodded. "I think they would like that very much. Father is getting too old to tend to his fields, and Mother's knees aren't so good anymore. They could have a much better life in America, and as hard as it would be for them to leave their homeland, I think they would be able to see what is best for them and that they would willingly go with us to Toledo."
Klinger smiled, glad to hear his wife say that. "We're going to find them Soon Lee. I know we are. Then we'll all go back home together, and call everybody from the 4077, then we'll all get together for the biggest reunion anybody ever saw. We'll even invite Trapper. He was at the 4077th for the first year of the war, and I don't think anybody's heard from him since he left. And Hawkeye said he was taking the Swamp home with him, and B.J. has the sign that hung on it's door. We'll set that tent up and build a still and we'll all cram in there and have the biggest party you ever saw." Klinger smiled contently as he imagined the first ever MASH 4077th reunion, and as fond memories of his friends played in his mind.
Father Mulcahy had already said his goodbyes to the orphans and had left the orphanage by the time Colonel Potter had arrived to drop Sophie off. Now the priest was sitting on an uncomfortable seat in the airport at Seoul, waiting patiently for his flight and finally letting his emotions get the better of him. It had been a hard day for everyone at the 4077th, and for Mulcahy it was no different. Thoughts of the friends he knew he would probably never see again dominated his thoughts. He replayed Klinger and Soon Lee's wedding in his mind, and relived the goodbyes Potter, Hawkeye, B.J., Margaret, Klinger, and Winchester had said to him. What he had heard of those goodbyes, anyway. He sure was going to miss those people. As anxious servicemen began to board the plane, Mulcahy followed suit and wiped a tear from his eye. Right there and then he vowed that no matter what happened, he would do everything he could to keep his family from the 4077 from drifting away from each other.
Margaret Houlihan was overcome with sadness at the prospect of never seeing her friends from the 4077th again, but she couldn't help but smile as she stood in the middle of the 8063rd's compound and watched a creaking, groaning garbage truck bring a familiar man into camp. "I don't care if it is against regulations, Rizzo!" the balding passenger was complaining to the man behind the wheel. "They have Jeeps here, and right now I would pay any amount of money to get out of this God forsaken garbage truck and into the relative comfort of a God forsaken Army Jeep!"
"If that's what you want, Major," Rizzo acquiesced as he brought the tank-like garbage truck to a screeching halt, nearly flinging his passenger over the windshield.
"You Bayou bred idiot!" the balding man exclaimed. "Slowly, Rizzo, stop the truck slowly. Slowly. Don't downshift all the way from fourth to first, stop the truck gradually and gently as to avoid throwing me out of this compost ridden excuse for a vehicle."
Margaret heard Rizzo grumble something that she couldn't quite make out as she ran toward the truck, laughing and shaking her head in amusement. "Charles, how fitting you arrive in this!" she exclaimed as she hugged him quickly. "Gosh, I miss you already, can you believe that?"
Charles chuckled sarcastically. "No Margaret, I can not believe that. Now if you'll excuse me -"
"Sorry Charles, but the mess tent is still standing and I insist you have a cup of coffee with me before you load your stuff in a Jeep and take off."
"Major, I really must -"
"That's an order, Buster," Margaret insisted sternly. "Now come on."