Author's Note: Many thanks to Melinda (samanddianefan10) for helping with a detail for this! :)
Peg never imagined she'd be here. OK, she thought every day about when BJ would come home. She missed her husband more than she believed was possible. But it wasn't BJ she was waiting to welcome home. It was some young man named Radar. What kind of name was that, anyway?
She hated this war! It was so unfair! Her husband was thousands of miles away. The thought of it made her blood boil.
Just then, two-year-old Erin looked up with a worried expression. Even at a young age, she could sense her mother was upset. "I'm sorry, Sweetheart. It's just that I miss Daddy so much." She bent down, kissed Erin's cheek and stroked her hair. Suddenly, an announcement came on the loudspeaker. It was Radar's flight!
Men came streaming into the airport. Peg could only wait, and hope she'd recognize Radar when she saw him. Or maybe he might recognize her. Some of the men were in military uniforms. Then she noticed one who hardly looked old enough to be in the Army, much less have served in Korea.
Erin saw the man at the same moment Peg did. Before Peg could stop her, the child was toddling as fast as her little legs could go. "Daddy!"
Radar could only smile as Captain Hunnicut's daughter raced toward him. She was every bit as beautiful as he'd said. Coming up right behind was a woman who could only be Peg.
"No, honey, that's not your Daddy!" Finally, she made it to where the young man stood. "I'm sorry," she said as she picked the little girl up. "I certainly hope your name is Radar, or this will be even more embarrassing."
"Yes, Ma'am. I am – or I was – Corporal Walter O'Relly, but my friends call me Radar. At least, they used to, on account of I could hear the choppers way before anyone else." He smiled shyly.
"Daddy!" Erin reached out for the medals and other shiny things on Radar's coat.
"I'm not your Daddy," Radar said. "But I saw him just yesterday before I left. He misses you both a lot."
"Well, we sure miss him, don't we, Erin?"
"Daddy!" Erin wouldn't give up.
"No, Erin, he is not your Daddy!"
"It's OK," Radar said. "I don't mind. But I do have a gift from Captain Hunnicut. I mean, BJ."
"A gift?" Peg asked. "He didn't say anything about a gift."
"It's not much. Just some fabric he got from Klinger." Radar took it from his pocket. "He made a dress out of it, and this was left over. He thought maybe you could make a dress for one of Erin's dolls. Or she might just want to hold on to it." Radar shrugged.
"I'm sorry, did you just say he got this from a man named Klinger? Who makes dresses?"
"Yes, ma'am. Corporal Klinger is desperate for a Section Eight discharge – that means he wants the Army to think he's nuts. And he wears dresses to show them how crazy he is."
"I'm afraid I don't really understand," Peg admitted. She knew Korea was practically a world away from San Francisco, but it almost seemed like Radar was speaking a foreign language.
"Yeah, I guess that would seem strange if you've never been to the 4077th," Radar laughed. "But they're nice guys. Except the nurses – they're not guys."
"Well, that's nice to hear," Peg said. If her husband couldn't be home, at least he was around nice people.
"I don't have much time before my next flight, but if we sit down, I can tell you all about the 4077th."
Peg nodded, understanding. She walked to a nearby bench. Once she got Erin seated, and playing with the piece of fabric, she sat. Radar took a seat next to her.
"Well, you know it's a MASH unit in Korea. We're pretty close to the front, but don't worry. It's pretty safe in camp. Our first commanding officer, Henry Blake, died before he got to go home. But his plane was shot down. We don't get shot at…..often." Radar shrugged. He didn't want Mrs. Hunnicut to worry, but he also couldn't deny that there was no place in Korea that was totally safe.
"I see," she said. Peg tried to keep the worry from her voice, but she really didn't succeed.
"Captain Hunnicut shares a tent with two other guys. One is Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce, Hawkeye. He's an OK guy, except he messes around with the nurses a lot. And then there's Major Winchester. He's sort of stuck-up, but he's a really good doctor."
"OK….." Peg tried to find this comforting, but none of it really was. "Now, these nurses that you say Hawkeye messes around with, do they ever…?"
"Oh, no, ma'am! Your husband only sees the nurses in the OR, or else in the mess tent!"
For the first time, Peg let out a sigh of relief. She'd heard stories of men who were thousands of miles from their wives. Loneliness could make a man do things he'd never ordinarily do. "I miss him so much," she admitted. "Erin does, too, as you probably figured."
Radar nodded. "Yeah, he feels the same. He talks about you two all the time."
Peg couldn't deny the relief she felt. She knew BJ was doing important work, saving lives, but it helped to know he hadn't forgotten that his life was here.
Both Peg and Radar were startled when Erin suddenly spoke. "Daddy?" she asked, pointing at Radar.
"No, sweetie, he's not your Daddy. I told you that."
Erin looked sad. As tears began to fill her eyes, she asked, "Daddy come home?"
Peg's heart broke. Erin wanted BJ home almost as much as she did. He was missing so much of his little girl's life. But she looked over at Radar, thinking of what he'd told her about the camp and the people BJ served with. "Daddy's not coming home yet, but he loves you very much. He misses both of us." Suddenly, he could feel tears in her own eyes. How long would she have to keep telling Erin that Daddy was gone?
Radar looked at the adorable little girl. He hated how sad she was. "Hey," he said. "I know how you feel. Your daddy and all the other people over there were almost like my family. I miss them, too."
In that moment, Peg realized she wasn't alone in this. Thanks to this war, a lot of people were missing husbands, friends, brothers, even sons. But the war would have to end someday, and then things would finally be normal again.