After his wife of many years died, Ernie's latent memories of his wartime years began to resurface. He became convinced that he had murdered his friend and squadmate, Corporal Wade Kean, during the fighting on Iwo Jima.
In guilt, he telephoned 9-1-1 several times, attempting to turn himself in, but was dismissed as a harmless crank.
Finally, Ernie walked into NCIS and announced he was turning himself in and brought the "murder weapon" - his old service-issue Colt .45 - along as evidence. Leroy Jethro Gibbs, himself a former Marine was disbelieving until circumstantial evidence was found that seemed to support Ernie's confession.
Every member of the NCIS team took an instant liking to Ernie, and were reluctant to condemn a war hero for a fifty-year-old crime, even one of which he may have been guilty. But Gibbs refused to believe that a Medal Of Honor recipient could commit cold-blooded murder, and staged a sort of "reenactment" of the episode that helped Ernie remember what had really happened: during a night patrol, Kean's legs were blown off by a land mine.
With a Japanese patrol bearing down on their position, Ernie and his squadmates tried desperately to muffle Kean's moans and screams of pain until Ernie was forced to knock him unconscious with the butt of his pistol. Wade later died from a combination of his injuries and the blow to the head. Ernie didn't mean to kill his friend, he just hit him too hard in the heat of the action.
Lt. Commander Faith Coleman declined to press charges against Yost, and officially recorded that Wade Kean was killed in action on Iwo Jima. Yost was exonerated, much to the relief of Gibbs and his team. Yost was originally skeptical of what happened, due to Dorothy and Kean having been high school sweet hearts but through Gibbs prompting, he remembered that Wade had agreed to be the best man at his and Dorothy's wedding with "no hard feelings," being of the opinion that the couple were meant for each other.
- Charles Durning who plays old Yost is credited as a Special Guest Star.
- This episode earned Durning a nomination for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
- Eight years after Terminal Leave aired, Durning passed away on December 24th, 2012 at the age of 89.