Father John Patrick Mulcahy – M*A*S*H 4077 Chronicles

Father Mulcahy 2Of all the unforgettable characters from M*A*S*H 4077, one of the most important characters is Reverend Francis John Patrick Mulcahy, Chaplain, United States Army.  A most courageous and kind person, a character full of intestinal fortitude, with a deep desire to help the living, and a solid right hook when needed.  Father Mulcahy has always been a hero of mine, and I wanted to explain why, as a tribute to both the character and the actor William Christopher.

Father Mulcahy:
This isn’t one of my sermons.  I expect you to listen.”

Humility is not a weakness!

Of all the attributes of Father Mulcahy, his humility always shines through.  From his unfailing kindness to seeing the best potential anyone can have, to representing the best of what the Chaplains Corps means, William Christopher, as Father Mulcahy, produces flawlessly the sentiment that humility is a strength, a desirable, needed strength.  Consider the episode where Father Mulcahy belts the unruly and demanding lieutenant in the jaw, the episode where Father Mulcahy rides in a helicopter as a counterweight or the episode where Klinger and Major Burns get into it over a scarf, and Father Mulcahy talks Klinger into giving him a grenade.  Never do you see Father Mulcahy backing down, giving up, or losing sight of the potential goodness of a person.Father Mulcahy 4

Father Mulcahy struggles with the US Army’s ineptitude to promote him to Captain in a couple of episodes.  Even as he struggles, you see Father Mulcahy learn invaluable lessons, teach kindness, forthrightness, and compassion, and diligence, and reliance upon the strength that only comes through commitment to something greater than oneself.  Father Mulcahy’s strength is one of the glues that held M*A*S*H as a TV show together for as long as it ran.  Why; because Father Mulcahy was genuinely genuine!

Consider the episode where Father Mulcahy sits down with Colonel Potter shortly after Klinger takes over for Radar as company clerk.  Who else could have talked Colonel Potter down without talking down to Colonel Potter and allowed Colonel Potter the opportunity to act without disrespecting his rank and position?  Who else could counsel Major Houlihan, chastise Captains Pierce, Honeycutt, and Trapper John, hold Major Burns’ feet to the fires of accountability, and seamlessly interface between the enlisted and officers?  Nobody!  Better still, Father Mulcahy did all this while epitomizing the Rudyard Kipling poem, “If.”

If—
By Rudyard Kipling
(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except for the Will, which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

From an interview with William Christopher, we find that Father Mulcahy was not just a character played but a person in reality.

How did you and Barbara survive the many disappointments caused by failed interventions when Ned was young? For example, the assessment of one doctor that he was “retarded,” and nothing could be done other than to “take him home and love him.”

We regarded this particular guy as a young psychologist who may not even have finished his studies. Maybe he was still in his early practice, a student who hadn’t earned his doctorate yet. In any case, we felt he was in the wrong field. We thought he couldn’t possibly know us and advise us to just accept a limited life for our son….  But we both believed that people make mistakes.

Humor is a Prerequisite Quality

Father Mulcahy always used humor to express himself.

Major Winchester was a blessing.  May the good LORD never bless me with him again!”

Some of the funniest lines in M*A*S*H belong to Father Mulcahy, and unless you are listening closely, they are often missed for the banter between the central characters.  Consider the episode where the company sings the M*A*S*H version of “Gee Ma; I wanna go home.”

A chaplain in the Army
Has a collar on his neck,
If you don’t listen to him
You’ll all wind up in heck
.”

Humor plays an incredible role in facing traumatic situations and coming through, not unscathed but mentally capable, confident, and more able to achieve.  Father Mulcahy teaches us this lesson in spades, with dignity, class, and a ripping sense of humor.

Father Francis Mulcahy:
Try to be compassionate. Remember, even one of our saints received a Dear John letter.”

Don’t be passive – Be Active – Work Hard

Father Mulcahy 5There is a story about how William Christopher got sick with Hepatitis, and the show’s producers wanted to remove Father Mulcahy’s role entirely.  Instead, Alan Alda went to bat for William Christopher, changed the scripts, and wrote Father Mulcahy’s sickness into the show to keep Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H.  Why would Alan Alda do something like this for a co-star?  There are several reasons; Alan Alda was a good person.  William Christopher was a good person.  But William Christopher was always working hard; he was not supposed to carry litters and all the other stuff he was always doing in the background.  William Christopher set a standard of behavior that modeled what a chaplain was supposed to do, and military chaplains copied his behaviors, mannerisms, behaviors, attitudes, and work philosophies.

Consider this for a moment; military chaplains learned how to be chaplains by watching a fictional character, imitating a US Army unit on a Hollywood set.  Reality has been changed to emulate fiction because fiction better reflects how people should act in reality.  I was not the only chaplains assistant who measured his chaplain by Father Mulcahy.  It is gratifying to know that many chaplains in the military have measured themselves against Father Mulcahy, found themselves wanting, and then worked to improve how they responded.Father Mulcahy 3

Name an episode where Father Mulcahy is not working, and I will show you an episode of M*A*S*H that was never made.  Father Mulcahy was always available, always cheerful, and constantly engaged in a good cause, as he himself said, “to be helpful to the living.”  Carrying towels, standing in for a nurse, providing an extra set of hands in surgery, comforting a patient, nurse, soldier, patient, always there, always caring.  One of the most poignant episodes is when the Bishop of the Catholic church is coming for a visit, but a soldier wants to give blood for his buddy, and he finds out he has leukemia, and Father Mulcahy spends all night, not on his sermon, but talking to this young wounded soldier.  Take a page from Father Mulcahy; working hard is not going to kill you.  Engage!

Father Francis Mulcahy:
[Wearing a dress] While I was showering, someone stole my robe and left me this… this… house frock!

Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger:
Better not take it off, Father, or you’ll be a defrocked priest!

Father Mulcahy:
How would you like to get last rites, [raises his fists] and a few lefts?

Standing for your Convictions is Mandatory

Father Mulcahy:
How dare you! You seek refuge in this house of the Lord when it serves your purpose. Then when it’s no longer convenient, you desecrate it by pointing a deadly weapon at another human being. Private, a faith of convenience is a hollow faith.”

Father MulcahyThe episode this quote comes from is where the mess tent is being used for services, fresh eggs had been donated, and a soldier comes in seeking ecclesiastical refuge and is AWOL from his unit.  This episode has always been a favorite of mine; it has come back in times of stress and trial when the harder right and the easier wrong conflict, and I have the choice to make about which to follow.  Father Mulcahy always chooses the moral high ground, the harder right, instead of the easier wrong, and the lessons he taught through living are not easily forgotten or pushed aside.  I might not be as practiced in the execution of living the harder right, but I cannot choose the easier wrong, and that makes all the difference.

Father Mulcahy:
Klinger, the Lord moves in mysterious ways, but you take the cake.”

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

How Do I Know? – An Update on the VA Mandatory Mask Policies and VA Leadership Failures

Question24 May 2021 – 1200-1500 I visited the Las Cruces Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Upon entry, I was asked to wear a mask.  I described I could not wear a mask, and the employee said I might be required to wear one but left the decision to those working more closely with me.  I waited in line and was called to the Team 2 window, where a gentleman was more than happy to assist me in getting the paperwork started to change VA hospitals after relocating.  About 45-minutes into my time in this CBOC, the gentleman asked me to wear a mask.  I told him I could not and had brought my VA Doctor’s note as proof.  The gentleman read the letter, confirmed I was good to receive care without the mask, and provided exceptional customer support.

After the past year at the Phoenix VAMC, where my every movement on the property was shadowed by VA Police officers looking for a reason to injure, arrest, cite, and force me from the property, the employees here in Las Cruces was a breath of fresh air.  However, the experiences in Las Cruces provide further evidence of the following facts:

      1. The Hospital Director has statutory authority for adapting and creating policies and procedures that benefit the safety of the employees and the patients. A point I stressed to the leaders of VISN 22 and the Phoenix VAMC to no avail.
      2. The Federal Mask Mandates can be situationally applied for the circumstances of the individual. Yet, another point I have repeatedly stressed since July 2020, and the first time I was injured, arrested, cited, and forced from Federal Property. At the same time, I was being denied emergency care under EMTALA and having my HIPAA information repeatedly violated by the VA Police Officers.
      3. The bombastic and unprofessional behavior of the Federal Police employed at the Carl T. Hayden VAMC is a problem of the leadership, and the failures of leadership to instill professionalism, proper attitudes and behaviors, training, and tactics in approaching and handling situations in the Phoenix VAHCS. At the behavior of the Federal Police Officers in the Phoenix VAHCS, Che Guevara, Mao, Stalin, and Fidel Castro would be proud!VA 3

How can a person be sure the problems caused are a direct result of leadership failures?

ApathyBy tracing behaviors, attitudes, and influence to their source, the police chief acts as he considers appropriate, but the underofficers generationally multiply and mirror his behaviors.  The same is true for the chief who takes his example from the assistant director, director, and hospital leadership.  Chains of command always have this consequence; the example of those above are mirrored, replicated, and multiplied to impress the higher officers to gain attention and promotion opportunities.  Want to take a measure of a leader; look to the most junior person in the chain of command and watch them for behaviors, attitudes, and actions that originate in the leadership.

GavelCase in point, long have I detailed and described the failures of leadership at the VA.  The latest is a wire fraud scheme in Jackson, Mississippi.  From the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG), we find the following:

Anthony Kelley, the owner of Trendsetters Barber College in Jackson, Mississippi, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud in a scheme to steal federal funds. From October 2016 through March 2019, the college offered a master barber course that was not accredited by the state’s board of barber examiners. Kelley fraudulently represented that this course was approved and, as a result, was allowed to collect GI Bill money from veterans enrolled in the program.”VA 3

As the lowest person in the chain of command, Mr. Kelly was allowed to attempt to commit fraud by the VA.  Never in these reports is the VA employee, their supervisor, and their manager, who were complicit in allowing fraud to occur, mentioned and held accountable.  Somehow, we, the taxpayer, must presume that those committing frauds could hoodwink the Department of Veterans Affairs without any inside help.  Help coming directly or indirectly from government employees charged with investigating, ensuring, and following proper protocols and procedures to protect against theft and fraud.

Angry Grizzly BearLet the US Attorney and VA-OIG special investigators crow about catching the person perpetrating fraud.  Before they break open the champagne, they need to be looking into the leadership that either overtly or covertly allowed this fraud to occur.  The elected officials need to be demanding why fraud opportunities are so rampant at the Department of Veterans Affairs that criminal proceedings are being reported almost every week and asking about the culture of corruption and leadership failures allowing these behaviors to thrive.

Is it a “Culture of Corruption?”

Absolutely; the VA is sick with a culture of corruption!  It is my sad duty to report on another employee who was able to steal from the VA, stealing hydrocodone and oxycodone prescriptions from the VAMC mailroom and mailboxes at some 40 locations in Kerrville, Ingram, and Center Point.

Scott M. Brown, a pharmacy technician at the Kerrville VA Medical Center in Texas, was charged with one count of theft of US mail for stealing hydrocodone and oxycodone prescriptions from the medical center’s mailroom as well as from residential mailboxes between March and April 2021.”VA 3

Currently, Mr. Brown is being held in custody and remains innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of his peers.  However, the fact that Mr. Brown has been charged and is in custody speaks volumes to the lax leadership that allowed these prescription thefts to occur.  Where is the VA-OIG in asking how the robbery was possible?  Where are the special investigators demanding answers from the leadership on policies and procedures that an employee could easily violate to obtain these drugs?  Who else was involved, or had to know, what was happening and said nothing?Plato 3

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been overtaken by those without skill, knowledge, and ability to understand cause and effect and properly interrupt the cycles of corruption.  Worse, these same people will bleat about how they need more money for technology solutions when their personal example, leadership failures, and human-to-human relationships are the actual problems.  The leaders will bleat like sheep in a corral about engagement, customer service, and industry buzzwords because they have no substance and even less desire to see things change.Plato 2

Recently I detailed the failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs on information technology.  The fallout from the deplorable designed incompetence in the IT/IS infrastructure at the VHA continues to represent just how incompetent the current leaders genuinely are.

To promote compatibility with the Department of Defense’s electronic health record system, VA is replacing its aging record system. This requires VA medical facilities to upgrade their physical infrastructure, including electrical and cabling. The OIG determined from its audit that the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) cost estimates for these upgrades were not reliable. VHA’s estimates did not fully meet VA standards for being comprehensive, well-documented, accurate, and credible. The audit team projected that VHA’s June and November 2019 cost estimates were potentially underestimated by as much as $1 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively. This was due in part to facility needs not being well-defined early on. The estimates also omitted escalation and cabling upgrade costs and were based on low estimates at the initial operating sites. Because cost estimates support funding requests, there is a risk that funds intended for other medical facility improvements would need to be diverted to cover program shortfalls. The Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization (OEHRM) also did not meet its obligation to report all program costs to Congress in accordance with statutory requirements. Specifically, OEHRM did not include cost estimates for upgrading physical infrastructure in the program’s life cycle cost estimates in congressionally mandated reports. Although VHA provided OEHRM with an approximately $2.7 billion estimate for physical infrastructure upgrade costs in June 2019, OEHRM did not, in turn, include them in life cycle cost estimate reports to Congress as of January 2021. OEHRM stated it did not disclose these estimates because the upgrades were outside OEHRM’s funding responsibility and that they represented costs assumed by VHA facilities for maintenance—including long-standing needs” [emphasis mine].VA 3

Angry Wet Chicken 2Did you catch that; the office specifically tasked with handling estimates intentionally low-balled estimates, did not include all necessary contractual requirements, and then lied to Congress to cover their hides, and fell back upon designed incompetence to skirt blame, responsibility, and accountability when the VA-OIG came investigating.  Lying to Congress is a CRIME!  Yet, these federal employees can break the law with impunity, and all the VA-OIG can do is make recommendations for improvement!  If you want to read the full report of shame, you can find it here.

Leadership is change; management is stagnation and corruption.  When will the VA start hiring leaders to enforce, demand, and execute change to benefit the taxpayer and the veteran community?  Where are the elected officials willing to work with newly hired VA leadership in establishing legal frameworks for evicting employees who refuse to change from the federal workforce?  When can the veteran community and the taxpayer expect to see real and tangible change at the VA?

Knowledge Check!I am not asking these questions and not expecting an answer!  I am asking these questions looking for and expecting real results to begin immediately, if not sooner!  This is a national embarrassment with a global impact, and it is time for the United States to lead in correcting their detestable government workforce!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.