The Coward

Note and Disclaimer: I can't help myself but write about a show I will never own (and you shouldn't feel so guilty either). Here's part eighteen of "By the Graveside". I hope you all enjoy!


A man who runs away from the problem is a man who cannot stand up for himself. It was not a matter of choosing battles, but of desiring weakness over strength. That was what the coward deemed himself to be, ever since he came home to Boston from Korea. While it was so short-lived of a time in that conflict, it was still a defining and bittersweet time that he will never forget. While this man buried beneath him was one he had to respect, he had little for the one who took away his girl.

The coward wasn't too extraordinary of a person. He was a dentist and a pretty damned good one too. The only problem with that is the Army. They love anyone with an education to be an officer. When the war in Korea broke out, they immediately picked up the coward from his flourishing practice in his native Boston and flew him over to a land of eternal sorrows.

Like most people, the coward accepted his fate. It was with honor that one served his country. But he was scared. He did not like the prospect of being a dentist in a war zone. The constant whining of bullets and the excessive pools of blood that he was unused to drove him insane. He did not feel like himself anymore. He drank more and chased women shamelessly. It earned him a reputation amongst the ladies and one he held proudly. It kept those demons away.

What turned him around was when a visiting nurse spent the night with him and he failed to please her. The thought that he was unable to have an intimate time with women was horrifying. He could not fault the woman, who was beautiful and cooperative enough. He blamed himself for not being a man.

Indeed, the coward thought that he lost his abilities as a charmer of women and held some other tendencies. Maybe he didn't like women anymore. Maybe…just maybe…he liked men better. The thought terrified him enough that he wanted to die. There were many ways to kill oneself in Korea, but the coward did not want a bloody end. He wanted it peaceful. It was the easiest way out.

He turned to his new friends, Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper McIntyre, and they had a big meeting about this strange occurrence. Oddly enough, while they argued against this death, they agreed to go ahead with the suicide. They staged an elaborate funeral for him in the Mess Tent. It was not only against Army regulations, but religious ones as well. Henry Blake had no objections. Indeed, he seemed part of this scheme too, one that the coward was not aware was a façade.

While the coward did not die and managed to see a mirage of the lovely Leslie "Dish" Scorch, he woke up feeling refreshed and ready for a relationship. He no longer wanted a different flavor every night. Leslie did him just fine. She even appeared happy with him for a while and they talked of their postwar plans. They danced to a tune only they had in their heads.

But what Henry Blake did next was unforgiveable. Within two months, Leslie was distracted. She was finding their relationship boring and told him so. She drifted elsewhere. At first, there were excuses. Then, the coward heard gossip that Henry took it upon himself to woo Leslie. Without another word, she moved on and was seen arm-in-arm with the CO. The attraction was how high up the chain Henry was versus the coward, who was only a captain.

Walter "Painless Pole" Waldowski wasn't a jealous man. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But Henry Blake took a girl he had fallen in love with, at a time when he thought himself a complete failure, and used his powers as a colonel to keep Leslie. Oh, how it hurt him to think that he no longer had that girl! But he could not go up against a man who could simply have him transferred elsewhere, and to a much worse unit too. That was what made him such a coward – not standing up to fight for Leslie. There was no confrontation.

While Painless Pole was saddened about Henry passing, he still thought that this colonel received his just rewards in the end. It was bittersweet to a family who was waiting at home for him, but a betrayal to them nonetheless. They needed to know the true nature of this man, not just as the dedicated pillar of strength he pretended to be. He took a woman from an unattached man and decided to use her for his own gain, flaunting his rank to make it happen.

Now, Painless Pole was no longer afraid. Henry was dead and could not defend himself.

Enraged, Painless Pole spit on the grave and walked away. He felt brave enacting this final insult, but he also felt a tiny bit of disgrace too. This was another coward's way out. He had the upper hand and used it brazenly. After all, he was only a monster running away from his problems still.