"Your stuff's all packed into the jeep," came Radar as he entered the post-op room. "Doctors all send their regrets at not seeing you leave, but Colonel Potter says there's so many wounded the blood's flowing like tomato juice." Radar wondered if anyone back home would ever comprehend that joke.
Hogan laughed. "Thanks, Radar. Say," continued the general as Radar approached him, "that was a great idea you had about the tomato juice. Reminds me of some of my zanier diversions back at Stalag 13. Carter tells me you did a great job here those few days."
"Thank you, Sir."
"I'd love to write a letter of reference for you for officer's school, we could use a guy like you." With his organization skills and impromptu ideas, with a little training he'd be a natural.
Radar vigorously shook his head. "Oh, no, Sir, I've seen enough to know I never want to be an officer. I can't stand giving orders and not pitching in; it doesn't feel right with the way I was raised."
"Back when 'e ran our operation, General Hogan pitched in all the time; he was just like one of us enlisted men."
Even after Newkirk's comments, Radar looked quite skeptical. Finally, Hogan asked if he would at least do him the favor of considering it. Radar grudgingly told him "I'll let you know if I'm ever interested." Hogan could tell from the tone that the lad never would be, and let it go at that. At least he'd offered.
The general smiled as he meandered out into the compound. The remaining American GIs would soon be shipped to Tokyo for further treatment. The former explosives expert hobbled beside them on his crutches, on his way to the truck which was to carry him and a couple of other Americans to Seoul for transport there. "Well, Carter, I guess you're going home - this time for good. We can't draft you now."
"Yeah, I can't say I'll miss war. But it's gonna be hard resisting the urge to help him if my son ever gets to love explosives like me." He grinned. "My wife says she can't keep him away from our outdoor fireplace now; he loves to pretend to play at stoking the fire and moving charcoal around with sticks."
Hogan grinned. It wasn't too late for him to have kids. Yes, the military was his life, but he did feel the need to contribute something more lasting. He hadn't felt this way before, but the survival of their unit's key personnel had perhaps allayed those desires. He somehow sensed they might cross paths again. Now, however, he sensed a greater deal of closure. Baker, though never drafted in this war, would be flying in to Tokyo for a reunion in a couple days. Schultz's head bookkeeper, Wilhelm Klink, would join the obese ex-guard for a day or two there as well. Hogan's mighty unit might get together in part after that. However, he sensed that they had performed their last mission together. A small tear welled up in one eye as Lieutenant Schultz joined them. He was taking a break from operating room duties and performing last minute checks on all the patients.
"It don't have to be forever, General," noted Newkirk.
"Yeah, we'll still write. And air travel is becoming so much easier, I'm sure I could visit you sometime," remarked the Frenchman.
Hogan grinned. "Yeah, I guess I'm just thinking about our missions being over." Unable to explain any other way, he simply stated "it just wouldn't be the same if the Lone Ranger and Tonto got together as a couple of old folks just to attend the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, and weren't helping someone. And, there are so many more to be helped yet." Newkirk and LeBeau were clear this time on who the legendary characters were.
Having learned from Oskar to never miss a chance to present the Gospel, Dr. Schultz spoke. "We are all called to do work like that; our thanks should be only knowing we helped someone, for then our rewards will be in Heaven. We should always be helping like that. We are not saved by works, though, but by grace through faith."
Not wishing to take any more of the younger Schultz's time Hogan turned to him and smiled. "Thanks, your dad and older brother and I had a long talk about that after the war. I've received that saving grace." He paused. "I'm just thinking about all the innocents behind what Churchill calls the Iron Curtain. I wish there was a way to keep our group together, to rescue them." And there are so many, he pondered.
Dr. Schultz heard the truck's engine start. As he took Carter's arm and assisted him into the truck, the German smiled. "General, I grew up imagining stories of some mythical character who was helping defeat the Nazis. I followed my older brother's faith, but more importantly, I knew a loving God could never allow a nation where children were worshipping that wicked Hitler to prosper forever. People of faith had to hide it quite often, just as they do, I am sure, in Russia. However, our faith won. Even if there was no 'Lone Ranger' in Germany, even if you weren't quite that ideal, the idea of one kept my hopes alive. The idea that there is goodness out there, that someone does fight for what is right, cannot be crushed. You may not be able to be 'Lone Ranger' there. But faith will, one day, set them free." Hogan smiled as he and Carter embraced, and Carter left in the truck. Perhaps that was enough. He saluted as the truck vanished from sight, and walked to the jeep with Newkirk and LeBeau.
"All set," inquired Radar as he opened the door for Hogan.
The sun had begun its slow incline toward the horizon, becoming more orange than yellow. "Yeah, thanks, Radar." The corporal stood back as the general closed the door and Newkirk started the engine, thankful to not have to impersonate anyone but himself.
"I never would have believed my father's stories could be true," expounded the doctor as the Heroes rode slowly away.
"Hogan and his men did some pretty amazing things during the last war, huh?"
Dr. Schultz nodded. "Oh, yes. That is why I have enjoyed this so much; I feel like I truly met the Lone Ranger."
Laughter burst forth from the two, as in the distance, Hogan couldn't help but look back and shout "hi yo, Silver, awaaaaay" as they rode into the sunset.