The Successor

Note and Disclaimer: Well, who owns M*A*S*H these days? Not I! I just write the stories and enjoy it. And so should you! Enjoy part eight of "By the Graveside"…


It was a strange trip already, to be honest. The man standing at the graveside did not personally know this dead person named Henry Blake. Indeed, the deceased had been a commanding officer before him and had been discharged almost two weeks before his own arrival in Korea. It was only with great sadness that Blake had been caught in a firefight and perished before arriving home.

In many ways, he was an heir to this departed soul, inheriting a camp full of sadness and despair, in a place far from home and without hope. It was a difficult beginning. During the few weeks in between his tenure and the last colonel, there has been a twerp ordering the outfit around. There has been no time for grieving, as the man named the successor saw it. While there has been the pomp and ceremony of the Army, this band of medical personnel been denied the chance to let out their tears and move on.

The successor has other ways to run the camp, but saw fit to let his people be themselves before exerting his commanding prowess. He did not mention Henry Blake by name, but allowed anyone who knew him to mourn as they felt without it affecting their work, including drinking heavily after hours. Immediately after this silent command, everything fell together like a charm and all was well. However, the successor has many things to learn and all of it from Henry Blake himself.

Oh, the successor had his own way of doing things. Every outfit he saw to rule, he continued this routine. But this one was slightly different because of this loss. Henry Blake had been a beloved figure in the camp, a father to some and a friend to all others. He stood up for what was wrong with the Army and why civilians were sometimes not fit to make any command decisions. The successor had not seen the reason why the military employed such people.

But the successor had a great many things to thank Henry Blake for too. Blake managed to take control of a camp and turn it around, smoothing out the roughness in these people. He had been the man who put them together and developed their best strengths and toughened their weaknesses, making that M*A*S*H the best there was in Korea, with the highest survival rate. Despite the great differences and the wide gap between all personnel, he had forced them to put aside all petty jokes and grievances and to work together as the team the successor managed to grasp.

For the former Colonel Sherman T. Potter, visiting this graveside was more than unusual now that he thought about those lessons. As he saw it, it was an honor to see stand before Blake and express gratitude for a job well done, including handing over a wonderful surrogate family. Of course, the former CO of the 4077th had not personally met his predecessor. However, he had heard enough about Blake from those who served under him to know that he made an impact on the people he commanded afterward. Most of all, Potter understood the aftermath of the disaster that conspired over the Sea of Japan.

He too will grieve for any individual who passed from war. It is always a tragedy. Three wars had taught him that game of life was always a card game. Sometimes, you need to make split second decisions and move on in order to survive. Other times, somebody else does them for you and there is little time to react. You are now a victim of their dire circumstances, no matter if you live or die.

Henry Blake was both. Potter had seen the effects of his command and was mostly pleased with its work. Other times, he had to wonder why the man allowed life to pass by so gently and he consented to having so many take control of the reins he did not desire. Well, that did not matter much now. As the strong successor, Potter had discontinued this practice and settled his crowd down enough that they matured, hopefully for the best. War had a funny way of doing that too.

But that too was always a flip of the coin. Heads or tails – either way, one might win or lose.