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'M*A*S*H' cast, fans reminisce at N.C. Veterans Park

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 11, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Mike Regan came to say thanks. A longtime "M*A*S*H" fan and a Vietnam War veteran, Regan was among the overflowing crowd at North Carolina Veterans Park on Sunday for a question and answer session with Loretta Swit, Jamie Farr and William Christopher, cast members of the groundbreaking series set during the Korean War.

The event was part of Heroes Homecoming, a four-day event to honor veterans, especially focused this year on the Korean War. This year marks both the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War and the 30th anniversary of the last episode of "M*A*S*H."

Regan said he appreciates the humor the show was able bring to something as horrible as war.

"You have to have that or you'll go crazy," Regan said.

Farr, who played Cpl. Maxwell Klinger on the show, said that was very purposeful.

"That was the intent of the writers," Farr said, "to bring laughter and passion and entertainment, but also show you the horrors, the after-effects of war."

Many audience members reminisced with the actors about their favorite episodes or moments of the long-running series, getting some behind-the-scenes details from the trio.

The actors recalled unscripted moments, the quirks of their former castmates, and what mementos they took with them after the show's end (including boots, dog tags, pink fuzzy slippers and a crucifix).

The event was part of a series of events celebrating veterans throughout the weekend, including a candlelight walk through downtown Friday evening, which ended at a screening of the final episode of "M*A*S*H" at the Arts Council.

"It's wonderful to see a community be so passionate about their vets," said Swit, who played Maj. Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan on the show. "It's really wonderful that we could be a part of it."

Farr and William Christopher, who played Father Francis Mulcahy, both served in the military, Farr for six years and Christopher for two.

"Although I never fired a bullet at anyone, I saw the aftermath of war, especially when we were in Korea," Farr said after the event.

Christopher noted that "M*A*S*H," which debuted in 1972, came about during the Vietnam era.

"The series got into everyone's living room," he said. "It began to say things other than fun and laughter ... It began to say some things about war."

And just as the show helped address these issues in its time, its cast members continue to bring awareness to causes such as making sure veterans are not forgotten.

"We're not doing enough," Swit said of the support for soldiers now returning home from war.

"Fame in and of itself," Swit said, "is unimportant unless you use it in a positive way to achieve something great."