|Waiting inside for the bus. A cold day in Ramstein
Cartoonists Society Brings Comic Relief and Illustration to Troops in Germany and Middle East on Annual USO Visit
Todd Clark, Paul Combs, Bruce Higdon, Bill Janocha, T. Lewis, John Read III, Debbie
Schafer, Rob Smith, Jr., Ed Steckley and Sam Viviano Brighten Spirits for Military Personnel
ARLINGTON, Va. (Oct. 19, 2011) –
National Cartoonist Society (NCS) member Bruce Higdon (“Punderstatements/Caricaturist”) joined fellow illustrators
on morale boosting USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour to Germany and Middle East. Among those visiting and bringing comic
relief to troops overseas and downrange are, cartoonists/caricaturists Paul Combs,Bruce Higdon, Todd
Clark ("Lola), Bill Janocha (“Beetle Bailey”), T. Lewis (“Over the
Hedge”), John Read III, Debbie Schafer, Rob Smith Jr. (“Glenn Beck”), Ed Steckley (MAD
Magazine) and Sam Vivano (MAD Magazine).
- Just a few days into the group’s week-long USO tour,
the group has visited hundreds of troops and their families stationed in Germany. Among the places visited so far are Ramstein
Air Base, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the USO Warrior Center.
the week the group will sign autographs and spread words of encouragement to service men and women. The artists will also
bring laughter to troops, listen to combat stories and extend their heartfelt gratitude.
- This is the first USO tour to the Middle East for the group, with the exception
of Higdon, who traveled to Kuwait and Iraq in October 2009.
- The NCS traces its association with the USO to World War II, when professional
cartoonists made repeated trips overseas to spend time with troops. Whether visiting military hospitals, entertaining troops
with chalk talks, or sharing words of encouragement, approximately one hundred professional cartoonists and caricaturists
have participated in military-related USO trips since 2005.
- In 2009 and 2010, the USO sponsored more than twenty cartoonists to travel overseas
and visit troops, drawing over 3000 personalized sketches. Cartoonists who recently participated in USO tours include, Jeff
Keane, Tom Richmond, Garry Trudeau, Stephan Pastis, Rick Kirkman, Chip Bok, Mike Peters, Michael Ramirez and Jeff Bacon, among
Attributed to Todd Clark:
"I can't adequately describe how proud our troops make me feel. It's an honor and a
spend time with them."
Attributed to Paul
"It is an honor to serve with the USO on this tour. My hope is to bring a little piece of
home and maybe a smile or two to our soldiers and their families through my artwork."
Attributed to Bruce Higdon:
"I never tire of being surrounded by heroes. The smiles and laughter on the faces of
our troops after spending a few minutes with these wonderful cartoonists is absolutely
priceless. It is a joy to be able to bring a little bit of home to those, away from home,
selflessly defending our freedom."
Attributed to Bill Janocha:
“It is an honor and pleasure to meet in person the men and women who represent our
country and place themselves in danger in order to keep us safe. The USO is a
delight, and I only wish I could stay long enough to draw cartoons for every single one
of these valiant soldiers.”
Attributed to John Read III:
“It is truly an honor and a blessing to be able, with just a little conversation and a
drawing, to bring some tiny bit of home to the heroes of our military who are serving so
far from our country.”
Attributed to Ed Steckley:
an honor and very humbling to be a part of this tour.”
Attributed to Sam
“In 35 years as a professional illustrator and cartoonist, I have never felt such satisfaction and pride
in what I do as when I have sat and drawn -- and spoken with -- the men and women who are out here protecting our country.
It has been not only a pleasure but a privilege to spend a little time with them and to do a little drawing as a sign of appreciation
for their efforts.”
|Drawing and chatting with a soldier at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia
|Group photo at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
|T. Lewsi, Me, Todd Clarke, Ed Steckley, and Paul Combs at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
|Visiting with a member of the Tennessee National Guard.
|Visiting with SSG Doris Wood, from Hendersonville, Tennessee.
|Having a great afternoon at Camp Virginia, Kuwait.
|Taking a morning break at the Hotel Missoni on the Persian Gulf.
The Humor Tour Stops at Walter Reed
The Navy Medicine Operational
Stress Control's (OSC) "Humor Tour" not only brought smiles to patients and staff at the Walter Reed National Military
Medical Center (WRNMMC) on Friday, but also helped raise awareness about the importance of mitigating stress.
As part of the OSC's efforts to protect service members from operational stress, and to help them become
more psychologically resilient, the tour included four nationally renowned cartoonists from the National Cartoonist Society
along with the director of the Humor Project, Dr. Joel Goodman. Volunteering their time, the group showed their appreciation
for service members and care givers.
Touched by the wounded warriors and
providers he has met along the way, Goodman said, "I really do believe in the Navy Operational Stress Control Program.
I'm really delighted to be a part of this tour, to really say thank you, and to really give the gift of humor."
Goodman explained the origin of his Humor Project was not so funny. After his father suffered
an aneurism, humor helped lighten the stress and got his family through the difficult situation. He then started the project
to help encourage others to take humor seriously and to use it in everyday situations to alleviate stress. Over the years,
he has presented at the Navy and Marine Corps Combat and Operational Stress Control Conference, written eight books and received
the International Lifetime of Laughter Achievement Award. He is also one of just two professional speakers in the world to
have presented on all seven continents and in all 50 states.
During his presentation,
"Humor, Hope and Healing," in the Laurel Clark Memorial Auditorium, Goodman told staff humor can be used in many
ways to help alleviate tension in stressful situations.
"Humor is a great way
of bringing us into the here and now ... Humor's a wonderful gift we can give ourselves. Life has a way of giving us pop quizzes
when we least want them, or need them, or expect them," he said. "Certainly some of your patients may have been
not only on the receiving end of the pop quiz, but a major test, and how do we take the test that life tosses in our path?"
The answer - humor, he said. The next time stress becomes overwhelming, he encouraged staff
to "call a mental time out, hold up a mirror to your reality, and come up with a playful definition of your job that
mirrors reality. Humor is really an attitude. It's a perspective. It's a way of dancing with life."
He went on to offer tips for care providers to help them introduce humor, in a tasteful way and when the
timing is right. For one, care givers can create "humor carts" filled with humor "stimuli," cartoons or
props. Host an annual, or monthly, "staff laugh," to help bring joy into the workplace. He also suggested having
patients create a humor scrapbook, flipping through magazines to find funny images or phrases.
It's important to be serious about humor, he said, "for the health of it." Studies have indicated
laughter can help reduce stress hormones and activate the immune system. The power of laughter and creativity can go a long
way, he added, because a smile is the shortest distance between two people.
is really an attitude. It's a perspective. It's a way of dancing with life, [and] a way of rolling with punches that life
inevitably throws us, or our patients," he said. "Humor can help us stay young at heart and spirit."
During the tour, the cartoonists - Jeff Bacon, Paul Fell, Bruce Higdon, and Mason Mastroianni
- sketched caricatures and cartoons for patients, their families and staff on the wards and in Tranquility Hall. The artists
also expressed their satisfaction in bringing laughter to troops and providers.
who joined the Navy in 1979 and still serves on active duty, began drawing for the Navy Time's cartoon, "Broadside,"
in 1986. Having toured the globe, he has had the opportunity to cross paths with several troops on more than one occasion,
and is always impressed to see the progress of a wounded warrior. He enjoys seeing them succeed, and bringing smiles to their
faces. He's also amazed at the amount of support wounded warriors receive, which he believes is especially helpful in their
"The support structure they have is unbelievable," said
Bacon. He added that those in uniform have sacrificed for others, and he appreciates the chance to help bring them a sense
of home, bring them humor and help them deal with operational stress. "We admire them more than they admire us. What
we want is to tell them we appreciate their service."
Admiring his caricature,
Army Specialist Sergio Cano, said, "I think it's awesome. I like it."
Cano was injured in Afghanistan. He said he was grateful for the cartoonists' support, adding that it's one thing for others
to say "thank you," but coming in, taking their time to sit and talk, shows their appreciation. He said, "It's
always good to see fresh faces around here. I think it's nice to see the support."
Higdon, who retired from the Army in 1993 and has drawn for Army Times, and the Stars and Stripes, said he could relate to
the service members. He has been touring the globe, sketching for service members for about six years.
"I've been in places that are uncomfortable, places that are lonely and situations that are difficult,
and I remember those times when people took time out of their life to come make me laugh, or say thank you, and so I [want
to] pay it back," said Higdon. "I understand how I felt when I was away from home, and when I was in the hospital.
It's good to see a friendly face."
For more information about the OSC
program and the Humor Tour, visit http://navynavstress.com. For more information about the humor project, visit www.humorproject.com.
Also, if you would like a copy of Mr. Goodman's book, "Laffirmations," please stop by the Office of Media Relations
in Building 1 on the 11th floor.
|Capt. Larimore will never be the same!.
|Jeff Bacon and I ham it up before moving out to Norfolk.
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- The Humor Tour, part of the Navy's Operational Stress Control (OSC)
program, made a stop at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Sept. 7, featuring the founder and director of the Humor Project and
four nationally known cartoonists from the National Cartoonist Society.
Humor Project founder Dr. Joel Goodman's
presentation "Hope, Humor and Healing" was geared toward caregivers and focused on the positive power of humor and
creativity and its effects on healing. The cartoonists met with members of the Wounded Warrior Battalion - East Detachment,
drawing cartoons and caricatures for them.
The Humor Tour is part of OSC's goal of safeguarding Sailors against
the stressors of Navy life by helping them become more psychologically resilient. To do that, the Navy established OSC to
help leaders, Sailors and their families become better able to prepare for, recover from and adjust to life in the face of
stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy.
One especially effective awareness strategy has been to incorporate humor.
The four cartoonists have volunteered their efforts to the program for more than two years. They were recently joined by Goodman,
resulting in this tour.
Goodman started his humor movement in 1977 to show people how to take humor seriously and
use it in their daily lives to ease stress. As part of the OSC program, Goodman says humor can be used in various ways to
help alleviate tension in difficult situations.
"Stress comes with the territory of your job; humor can give
some levity to the stressful situations you encounter," Goodman said to NMCP caregivers during his presentation. "Humor
can include so much more than just knock-knock jokes. Humor is an attitude; it provides perspective and a way to get through
Goodman developed his program after dealing with his father's illness and hospitalization. He
and his mother would ride a shuttle from their hotel to the hospital each day. The driver, Alvin, was the first person with
whom Goodman saw the positive effects of humor. Alvin made Goodman and his mother laugh during their short rides and this
helped them and their whole family get through that difficult time.
Similar to Goodman's experience, military members
often deal with anxious and tense situations. Goodman said that applying the practical, positive power of humor and creativity
can ease a lot of the stress that comes with being in the military.
"I encourage everyone to look for the
humor in everyday situations," he said, "and that a child-like perspective can be a very mature coping mechanism."
Also part of the project, cartoonists Jeff Bacon, creator of the "Broadside" and "Greenside" cartoons;
Mason Mastroianni, "B.C." comic strip artist; Paul Fell, of Paul Fell Cartoons; and Bruce Higdon, "Punderstatements"
comic strip artist, spent the morning with the wounded warriors, drawing cartoons and caricatures for them.
was a really fun change of pace," said Lance Cpl. Chris Pratt, a Marine from the battalion. "They brought a little
humor here, and it was a welcome change. The cartoonists took the time to talk with us and make us laugh. It was a really
The society's visits to troops reach back to World War II, when cartoonists visited troops during
the war. Afterward, they realized how much they enjoyed traveling together and giving back to the military. The National Cartoonists
Society was formed, and the visits continued during the Korean and Vietnam wars. In 2005, they started visiting troops in
Iraq and Afghanistan, continuing the tradition of supporting military troops during war times.
"As a retired
soldier, I've been the recipient of USO visits from celebrities while I was deployed in faraway places," Higdon said.
"To this day, I remember those visits and the time people took to come see us and spend a few minutes to lift our spirits.
"I've become involved in visiting today's troops," Higdon continued, "because I want to make them feel
like they are important and appreciated. I've been in their shoes, and when you're down and out and someone comes to tell
you that they appreciate you - it's priceless."
OSC Program and Humor Tour information can be found at www.NavyNavStress.com.
For more news from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, visit www.navy.mil/local/nmcp/.
HUMOR IN NORFOLK
JEFF BACON'S BLOG in Navy Times
If you look at the history of Norfolk, you will
see that it has been invaded a few times. First the British owned it. Then the uppity Americans took it from them. A few years
later the Confederacy took over. Then the Union took it back.
Yesterday it was invaded again,
this time by some cartoonists from the National Cartoonists Society.
Invading cartoonists augmented by humorist Dr. Joel Goodman (on the right)
As part of its
continuing partnership with the Navy and military medicine, the cartoonists (Jeff Bacon, Mason Mastroianni, Bruce Higdon and
Paul Fell) from the National Cartoonists Society, along with humor expert Dr. Joel Goodman, visited wounded, injured and ill
troops the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth and later drew for the crew of USS JAN JACINTO (CG 56).
can’t speak for the hapless victims (each of whom received personalized artwork), but the cartoonists and Dr. Goodman
had a blast. They all were there as part of a developing partnership with BUMED to use humor as an operational stress mitigator.
Many studies have been conducted that show that humor actually has a healing effect with ailing patients and those who operate
in a stressful environment – something the cartoonists have witnessed first-hand over the last several years.
All those studies may be true, but the overall consensus by the invading cartoonists is that the visits were a blast.
The troops were – as usual – incredibly impressive and upbeat. Thanks to the staff at the hospital and the Captain
and crew of SAN JACINTO for all the hospitality!
And as a famous general once said when he left
a place he would one day invade again, we shall return.
|Preparing to board the U.S.S. Peleliu (Background, left)
|Julie and I get ready to draw sailors.
|Cartoonists looking for paper, pens, and coffee.
|Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Ramirez, draws a waiting sailor.
|Greg Evans, Me and Mike Ramirez mugging outside the Naval Medical Facility at Balboa.
|Aboard the U.S.S. Peleliu with Ray Alma.
|Aboard the U.S.S. Peleliu
|The crew went overboard over my BEAT NAVY button. Thank goodness, I didn't!
|Lots of towers, platforms, and gadgets.
Visit to the Military in the San Diego, California Area
Thirteen cartoonists attended the Navy's Combat Operational Stress Conference in San Diego, during
the week of April 25-29, 2011. The conference was held for medical and staff personnel to address PTSD and other mental
issues facing our military, today.
The cartoonists included: Bruce Higdon, Bill Amend (Foxtrot),
Steve Moore (In the Bleachers), Jeff Bacon (Broadside, Navy Times), Bill Janocha (Beetle Bailey), Paul Combs, Patrick Hrabe,
Michael Ramirez (Editorial Cartoonist, National Investor's Daily), Milburn Taylor (Advertising Cartoons), Ray Alma (MAD Magazine),
Daryl Cagle, Julie Negron (Jenny), and Greg Evans (Luann). The cartoonists addressed the conference on the subject of:
"How Humor Heals."
During the week, the cartoonists took time to visit the crew of
the U.S.S. Peleliu, a Marine Amphibious Assault Carrier. Captain Jim Cox welcomed the group aboard for a tour and a
few hours in the galley, drawing for the crew. It was great to meet all the sailors and marines who do such a wonderful
job of defending our freedoms on board the Peleliu.
Following the Peleliu, the Fleet Weather Center at Naval Base San
Diego, North Island, was the next stop. There, they were briefed on the duties and responsibilities of providing proper
weather forecasting for operational missions, as well as daily forecasts. The sailors welcomed the cartoonists with
a barbeque, followed by great conversation with cartoonists as they drew toons and caricatures for them.
These visits would not be complete without a visit to the brave heroes who were wounded defending our nation.
Visits to Balboa Navy Medical Center are always emotional. This one seemed more so, for some reason. We chatted
with both patients and family members as the sailors and marines were actively engaged in their daily physical rehab.
Many of them had received their wounds from IEDs, and quite a few had received multiple amputations. However, they were
upbeat and looking forward to the future.
Another stop brought us a visit with soldiers from other battles
and conflicts. This was my third visit to the San Diego Veteran's Medical Center. It is always great to stop by
and spend an afternoon with the veterans and their families. Cartoons, caricatures, jokes and conversation flowed along
with wonderful stories of their military experiences.
The weekend wrapped up with drawings at the conference, wonderful
meals, a visit to PETCO Park to watch the Padres play the Braves, and a great week spent with old friends, and new ones.
Remember our troops!
Drawing Class Ending for the Holidays
The basic drawing class, taught by Bruce, will end on November 19 with an art show by the students.
Students participated in the after-school drawing program to learn the basics of drawing. The ten-week course covered
composition, balance, light and shadow, texture, and tools.
The students will present their course work and projects to family and
friends, following the last class. Students will be receiving BHS tee shirts and certificates.
USO Visit to Germany
including Bruce Higdon, visited military members at the National Naval Hospital at Bethesda, MD, Walter Reed Army Medical
Center, Washington, DC, Ramstein AFB, Germany, and Landstuhl Regional Medical Facility in Landstuhl, Germany. Here is
a link to the story and photos: http://www.militarytimes.com/blogs/broadside/2010/05/04/3694/#comments.
cartoonists visit wounded troops at Landstuhl
Some of America's best-known cartoonists
began a USO tour of bases in Germany and the Middle East Friday with a visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
According to a USO press release, the
group was to include Jeff Bacon ("Broadside" and "Greenside"); Chip Bok (Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal,
Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time and Newsweek); Bruce Higdon (Army Times, Army Magazine,
Soldiers Magazine) ; Jeff Keane ("The Family Circus"); Rick Kirkman ("Baby Blues"); Stephan Pastis ("Pearls
Before Swine"); Mike Peters ("Mother Goose and Grimm"); Michael Ramirez (Investors Business Daily); Tom Richmond
(MAD Magazine); and Garry Trudeau ("Doonesbury").
"I'm so proud of our men and women in uniform," said Jeff Keane, President
of the National Cartoonists Society. "They, much like my dad who served in the Army back in the mid-1940s, have worked
so hard and sacrificed so much. I am honored to be part of this USO tour and I can't thank our troops enough."
father, Bil, was a Pacific Stars and Stripes cartoonist in the months following the end of World War II.
Cartoonists impressed, inspired by visits with wounded troops
By Jeff Bacon
of military hospitals in the U.S. and Germany were invaded recently by members of the National Cartoonists Society on a mission
to bring smiles to the faces of the brave men and women who have sacrificed in service to their country.
I was honored to be a part of it.
The list of participants
reads like a “Who’s Who” of the country’s top cartoonists: Jeff Keane of “The Family Circus”;
Mike Peters of “Mother Goose and Grimm”; Rick Kirkman of “Baby Blues”; Stephan Pastis of “Pearls
Before Swine”; Tom Richmond of MAD magazine; Chip Bok, editorial cartoonist for The Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal newspaper;
and retired soldier Bruce Higdon, a cartoonist and caricaturist.
On this trip, we visited the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.,
Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The USO funded the
bulk of the cost, with the rest of the financing provided by the Gannett Foundation, the charitable arm of the company that
owns Military Times, and several private donors.
We drew cartoons and caricatures for the patients, but mostly we talked, and listened. The
stories we heard were inspiring. The patients didn’t complain, and they certainly weren’t scared — they
described their wounds as if they were explaining how to change the oil in your car. We never heard them say, “If only,”
or “Why me?” Instead they talked about the future, and how they intended to keep moving forward.
The only time emotion came to the surface
was when they talked about the buddies they left behind, or those who never came back. Camaraderie is still powerful in today’s
armed forces, and many expressed a desire to get back to their posts and finish the job. I am two or three decades older than
most of them, and I felt like a child in their presence.
The medical treatment our troops receive is impressive, part of a complex process
that begins on the battlefield and culminates at military hospitals in the U.S. (usually Walter Reed, Bethesda, Naval Medical
Center San Diego or Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio).
When troops are injured in Afghanistan or Iraq, they are treated locally in
theater, then flown to Landstuhl, where they are stabilized for the flight across the Atlantic.
In many cases, the stay is a short one —
those with minor injuries stay overnight near the airstrip at the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility at Ramstein and
leave the next day. If they need more care, they are transported to nearby Landstuhl, where they are cared for until they
can be sent stateside for extended treatment and recuperation.
Today’s medical technology is cutting-edge, but in the end, it is all
about the people who use it. Medical staffs at each of the hospitals shared a commitment to their patients that bordered on
obsessive, but in a good way.
The newest and best prosthetics are being provided to those who have lost limbs; they come in variants that
allow swimming, running, skiing — you name it. I shook the prosthetic hand of a soldier at Walter Reed, and with a simple
flex of his bicep, his mechanical hand gently squeezed mine in return.
Over the last few years, cartoonists have dropped in on military hospitals
and Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers all over the country, continuing a tradition that began in World War II,
when cartoonists flew to remote bases to provide some cheer to the troops serving overseas.
Jeff Keane’s father and creator of “The
Family Circus,” Bil Keane, visited troops in Vietnam; his son is following in his footsteps as our troops fight the
war on terrorism.
The NCS works with the USO, Armed Forces YMCA and VA to coordinate the visits, and the partnership works well. We already
are planning trips to several medical centers all over the U.S. and hope to get permission to drop in on facilities in U.S.
We consider it a privilege to visit our wounded warriors and are humbled by the sacrifices that they have endured so
that we can enjoy the lives we lead. If we can put a smile on their faces as they fight through their pain, so much the better.
Until the day they have all gone home, we’ll continue drawing funny pictures and listening to their tales.
The writer, a retired Navy captain now
landlocked in Idaho, created the Military Times cartoons “Broadside” in 1986 and “Greenside” last
year. For more about his trip, visit his blog on all things military athttp://www.militarytimes.com/blogs/broadside/.