Radar walked into the OR. Trapper immediately yelled, "Radar, MASK!". Hawkeye quipped, "If its my discharge, Radar, just give it to me straight-I can take it!"
Radar fumbled for words, and then read the telegram. "By now, you bums have probably emptied and drained my liquor cabinet. That's ok, though. I got plenty more with me back here in Illinois. Yours truly, Doctor Henry Blake, formerly Lieutanant Colonel."
The young man left with a sad smile on his face, and, for a few moments, their friend's stateside happiness lightened the load in the place where shattered young men flowed like the liquor from Henry Blake's indeed-emptied cabinet. But only for those few moments. The difficult task continued without Henry.
"What the hell happened!?" Pierce was thrown off. The sudden wave of wounded looked too well dressed to have been in combat. The driver responded, "They were on their way stateside, Doctor. Their plane took enemy fire over the Sea Of Japan. Barely sputtered in before crashing. Pretty bad, most of em' that made it this far."
Hawkeye noted that one patient was surrounded by 4077th personnel, especially the senior staff, standing like statues. Running towards them, Pierce had the same sick feeling he did when he came home one day to find his puppy had broken his leash. The new highway was 10 miles away. But, as Hawkeye found out that day, the poor little guy found it like a shot- just like a car found him. As it turned out, that same sick feeling was on target. The patient, barely alive, was Henry Blake.
"Don't look at me that way, Pierce. Remember the first and 2nd rules of..HACK! AAAGGH!" Henry died in front of them. The wounds had been too great. Oddly, one of the most devastated faces belonged to the recently promoted Frank.
Trapper stopped a somber Hawkeye and asked, "Wait, Hawk. What 1st and 2nd rules?"
"Henry once told me that in war, good men die, and that there is not a damned thing we can do about it, or words to that effect. You'll excuse me if those words don't help much right now." Trapper wondered, as did they all, whether it would have been worse hearing about this from a remove, by an empty telegram. They couldn't imagine feeling any more empty, themselves.
The mood in the OR was like that of a funeral. Pierce didn't joke. Trapper, who saw Margaret bend over only a few feet away, let the opportunity for a comment pass, without ever having taken note of it. Margaret didn't even realize she was affording him such an opportunity. Frank was operating at his best efficency, for once concentrating on nothing but the patient. No one even noticed that Klinger was in Army fatigues.
The news of an hour past had finally sunk in: Henry Blake was dead, the plane carrying him stateside shot down over the Sea Of Japan; there were no survivors.
In crept Radar, mask on, with a patient in a wheelchair, also with a surgical mask. His foot had been re-set and bandaged up. One by one, they all noted the identity of this patient. But no one said anything, for fear of it being a dream.
"Can you guys believe that, just as I was to board the plane, a damn jeep runs over my foot? I missed the plane home! It'll be a week before I'm good to go, and 1 more before they can get me on another flight!"
Hawkeye, who realized that Radar hadn't told their friend all the news, merely quipped, "Well, you know, Henry, Some guys have all the luck!"
With Death turned away, the feeling of despair gave way to near ecstatic joy. They still had work to do, but the burden lifted for that day.
When Henry finally did leave, Trapper went with him. There Henry ran into a man-an older Colonel, to whom he was able to relate the handful he'd be taking up at the 4077th. As the plane passed the same area that the earlier one was shot down in, he held a shudder all the way to Hawaii, where a Taxi ran over his other foot.