Chapter 23 - That's the Plan
"Walter, are we going to have enough money for Colonel Potter's birthday present?" asked Patty. "The party is going to be in less than a month. That doesn't leave us much time.
Radar swung his daughter up over his head. She looked down at him and laughed out loud.
"You'd better be careful, Walter, you're liable to end up with a head full of second hand rice cereal. She just ate."
He quickly brought the baby back down and held her on his lap.
"We will have more than enough. I talked to Major Winchester last night...I mean Charles...he said that he would make up the difference of whatever we collect. So far I think everyone has contributed: the Pierces, the Hunnicutts, the Klingers and even the Freedmans. Geez, I can't believe how nice Charles was. He was never that nice to me in Korea."
"Things change and so do people, Walter," said Patty. "Besides, Dr. Winchester is happily married now. I guess maybe he's just mellowed."
"I don't know how we're going to pull off this surprise party, though," said Radar. "I mean the surprise present is going to be awfully hard to hide."
"Not if we get there early enough to hide it. Remember, Mildred said that Sherman is in Korea with the Pierces and BJ. The hard part is going to be figuring out how to get everyone there without Sherman getting suspicious, but I think Mildred has it all figured out."
"That's good," said Radar. "Thinking about it makes my head hurt."
It took two helicopters to take the four travelers to Uijongbu. BJ and Sherman rode in one and Hawkeye and Margaret in the other.
Hawkeye gazed out of the chopper at the land below. The memories swirled around inside his head; the wounded, the refugees...that baby...
"It's funny, all we do here is fight pain and death and suddenly we had a small life. Well I don't care where she is, a little piece of her is gonna go home with each one of us."
"So you're here to adopt one of those little gook kids?" asked the pilot.
Hawkeye glared at the man in disbelief, "It's a good thing for you that our lives are in your hands right now or I might be tempted to spread your face all over Korea. For your information, we are going to adopt a child...emphasis on the word 'child.' Perhaps you've heard the story before. It's just another saga in the annals of American history; one of our 'brave' red-blooded American boys gets lonely, keeps company with a Korean girl. Girl has baby...GI Joe goes home...leaving girl and baby to be social outcasts!"
"Hey, what did I say?" asked the pilot. "I was just trying to make a little conversation."
"Next time try making it with your mouth shut," interjected Margaret.
Hawkeye squeezed her arm and smiled. Up to that moment Margaret had been sitting quietly beside him watching the all too familiar countryside. She was clutching the teddy bear that she'd bought for their baby before the accident.
"Do you think Father Mulcahy got our letter?" asked Margaret anxiously.
"We're about to find out," answered Hawkeye.
As the helicopter landed Hawkeye saw a familiar figure running toward them.
"Hey Father! I guess you did get our letter!" yelled Hawkeye over the chopper blades.
Father Mulcahy exchanged hugs with each of them.
"It's good to see you again, Padre," said Sherman looking around. "Although I never thought I'd be back here to see you. Life is sure a mixed bag isn't it?"
"Hello Father, it's good to see you again," said BJ, hugging the priest.
Margaret hugged Father Mulcahy and kissed his cheek.
Hawkeye looked at the priest and asked, "Well? Have you...?"
Father Mulcahy did his best to avoid eye contact with either Hawkeye or Margaret. "The sisters have lunch waiting for us back at the orphanage," he said. "If we wait much longer, those children will have it all eaten."
The priest caught BJ's eye and winked as Hawkeye and Margaret were getting in the back of the truck. BJ's heart did a leap. He got in the truck beside Father Mulcahy and whispered, "Does that mean what I think it does?"
Margaret sat in the back of the truck still clutching the teddy bear. Hawkeye had his arm around her. He hoped that it wouldn't be another disappointment, especially for Margaret. She'd been through enough. He hoped that the Father had found the child. He had to admit that he was skeptical even though it had been his idea to pursue the adoption of that particular child.
The truck stopped and before they could get out they were surrounded by chattering children. Sister Theresa emerged from the crowd and said, "Welcome! Please excuse the children's manners. We don't get company often and certainly not from so far away. Please come in and share our lunch. It's not fancy but there's plenty."
"Just the same, Sister," said Sherman. "We brought a little something to help you out." While they were in Tokyo, they'd taken some time to purchase a few items for the children. They unloaded two large sacks of rice and some other staple foods.
"Thank you," said Sister Theresa. "After lunch we'll take you on a tour. There's someone out in the barn that misses you, Colonel Potter."
He grinned. "Sophie! Well, I'll try to contain myself until after we've eaten."
"There is someone else I'd like you to meet," said Father Mulcahy to the four travelers. He took hold of a small hand from behind Sister Theresa's long skirts. A moment later the hand was followed by a tiny little girl. The fingers of her other hand were in her mouth. She was about two years old. Her silky brown hair reached her shoulders and she looked up timidly at the strangers.
"Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit!" yelped Sherman. "Oh...ah...sorry, my apologies to the ladies."
Hawkeye and Margaret threw their arms around Father Mulcahy. There was no mistaking her. The eyes of the baby in the picture perfectly matched those of the child that stood before them.
Margaret knelt down and offered the teddy bear to the child. The girl smiled and took the bear in her arms. Margaret held out her arms to the girl and the child reached out to her. It seemed to Margaret that the little girl knew who she was.
"Hawkeye, we have a daughter," she whispered, her eyes glistening.
The phone rang and Peg ran to pick it up, nearly tripping over ten month old Ben. He was startled and began to cry.
"Hello, Peg? Can you hear me? This is Mildred Potter."
"Yes Mildred...can you hold on for a minute?" Peg put the phone down and took Ben into the living room in front of the television where Erin was watching Howdy Doody. "Here, Sweets, can you keep an eye on your baby brother?"
"Sorry Mildred," said Peg.
"Sherman managed to get a call through just a little bit ago."
"What time is it in Korea?"
"It's 2:30 AM tomorrow there," replied Mildred. "Sherman picked that time because he knew it would be late morning here. Anyway Sherman called with wonderful news!'
"They found her!"
"Yes, they did and they're in the process of doing the paper work. BJ did a complete physical on the child. He says she's been well taken care of."
"That's such good news," said Peg, dabbing tears from her eyes. "When will they be back? Did Sherman know?"
"Sherm says he thinks they're almost ready to head back. He said it could be another week but they're going to keep us posted. So now we girls need to proceed with the plans for this little wingding of ours."
"Does Sherman have any idea?"
"None whatsoever. He's probably forgotten about his birthday altogether. I talked to Patty O'Reilly earlier this morning. They have Sherman's surprise all ready to put in the trailer and head this way."
"Oh I can't wait to see the look on his face!" said Peg "How are we going to pull this off?"
"It's very simple dear. Sherman will be coming straight home from San Francisco. The Pierces will stay with you, if that's okay, for an extra day so you all won't be coming into Quincy, Illinois at the same time. That's where the closest airport is. Once you get in, Radar can pick you up at the airport. Our neighbors down the road from us are going to hide Sherman's surprise. It's a little too big to hide in the hall closet," She and Peg giggled.
"I think that's a magnificent idea!" exclaimed Peg. "I love the idea of Hawkeye and Margaret staying with us. That will give BJ and me some time to get acquainted with our new 'niece.' Did Sherman mention what they named her?"
"Just a minute, Dear, I wrote it down on a scrap of paper so I wouldn't forget. The monks actually named her and Hawkeye and Margaret decided that they love the name and they're just going to add 'Pierce' to the end of it. Okay, here it is, Catherine Yumee Pierce."
"Yumee? What a pretty name! Is that Korean?"
"Yes," said Mildred. "It means 'Beautiful Dawn.'"
"Well," Peg said, "It sounds like we have a plan!"