A Reading From the Letter to Margaret Houlihan
February 17th, 1954
Thank you for your note. It was lovely to see your terrible doctors' scribbles once again. My birthday was fine, if a little quiet without you and BJ here to tease me.
The staff at this VA Hospital is a refreshing change. All the rules are properly followed and enforced. I have yet to see anyone wearing a frilly dress while on guard duty. I do miss having my own tent, however. Well, I don't miss the tent so much as the illusion of privacy and security that it gave me. The army doesn't let single women own houses. Those are reserved for the "real families." Therefore, I am stuck in a dorm with other single nurses. Most of them don't stay single for long. There's an alarming amount of turnover at the hospital. It seems as though we have three nurses leave for every ten soldiers that recover.
Before you ask, no, it's unlikely that I'll be one of those nurses anytime soon. I haven't had much luck with army men, as you know. I thought about trying out some Navy men, but I get seasick too easily. (Yes, that was a joke. I hope I haven't shocked you. It seems your sense of humor rubbed off on me and decided to stick around no matter how many showers I take.)
In answer to your question, no the VA hospital isn't any better than the 4077th . The men are certainly cleaner and more physically together once they get to us, but they're no less wounded. Some are worse because they're just now beginning to understand and adjust to civilian life. It's hard to watch them slowly realize what losing a leg or their eyesight truly means. At least at the front we were often there soon enough to make a difference. I expected the rehabilitation ward to be filled with hope, but most of the men are filled with resignation. I wish I could be more cheerful, but you know how awkward my bedside manner is. As much as I loathe to admit it, I need your help in moments like those. You always know what to say to lighten up a room.
It's cold here, Hawkeye. At least in Korea we knew the cold wouldn't last, but it's been four months now and the snow hasn't stopped. Remember when the entire camp was trying to steal pieces of Charles's snowsuit? Well, people have been doing the same thing here, except more desperately and less good-naturedly. I still have a few of Klinger's scarves that have made me the envy of the ladies' dorm. And yes, I still have my black turtleneck, although you'll be relieved to know that I don't wear it for the same reasons I did in camp. I was so mortified when you guessed that I wore it after nights with Frank that turned particularly adventurous. Thanks for keeping that secret. Although, at some point, it became your secret too, didn't it?
My goodness, I've gone on for two pages just about me. I'm sure that doesn't surprise you. I've always been a bit too focused on myself. Our time in Korea helped me see that. You helped me see that.
I hope you've found this at least a little entertaining. While I may not be as witty and charming as you are, I can at least make an effort, I suppose. (Yes, I did just give you a compliment. It seems absence really does make the heart grow fonder).
I'll end my letter by admitting how much I've missed the 4077th and everyone in it. Please write back with more than just a note this time. I want to know how you are and how BJ is and if you've seen anyone in the past few months. Tell me about your practice and your hometown. Is there anyone who might become the new Mrs. Pierce soon? I want to know how you're adjusting. I was so worried about you those past few weeks before we said goodbye - a goodbye I think about often. (Do you? It's okay if not, but it really is one of my favorite memories).
I hope to hear from you soon, and thank you again for the birthday wishes.
All my love,
Margaret put down her pen and stared at the letter for a long moment. She sighed and reached into her desk drawer for a fresh sheet of paper.
Thank you so much for the birthday wishes. It was a lovely day, if a little bit quiet. Please pass along my congratulations to BJ and Peggy. I'm sure Erin will love having a younger sibling in the house.
I hope all is going well for you, too. Working at the VA has its challenges, but I'm enjoying it as much as I can. Maybe I'll be able to visit you all soon.