There are only a few times in life when you are privileged to witness something few people get to see, and so it was on a recent USO trip to SW Asia. I chose the word privileged because that was the overwhelming feeling I had watching the young men and women who represent us in remote, hostile locations on the other side of the world.
The are proud and confident. They are the kind of people you want your children to become when they grow up. They go about their jobs without complaint, without questioning the politics or military orders that took them away from their families to a desolate and dangerous part of the world. Thousand of miles from home, I felt an overwhelming pride in America, because that is what they are. They are America.
Thank you for the privilege.
Drawing cartoons is pretty easy, really. All the cartoonists have to do is observe life and draw a picture of it. For example, this cartoon?
It really happened.
So did this (pretty much):
Most cartoons, just like most jokes, have an element of truth in them. The trick is to describe the scene and punchline in a few squiggles and words. In the case of military cartoonists, there is another challenge – to poke fun of an established institution without getting smashed. Many of my cartoons are almost direct quotes – but the faces, uniforms and settings have been changed to protect the one being made fun of (often senior officers), and to protect the innocent (me).
And it works! The only exception is when the joke is about the cartoonist himself, in which case everyone already knows who it is about.
(That actually happened too.)
[updated Aug 19]
If you have ever flown in a Blackhawk helicopter, you have probably heard of the hurricane seat – the one place where the wind and rotor rotation combine to create a near constant wind tunnel effect on the poor sap sitting there. Here are a few shots of MAD Magazine legend Sam Viviano in the hurricane seat during a recent USO trip to SW Asia. Luckily, I was sitting across from him and was able to snap a few photos.
Here is Sam, ready to go. Winds are moderate, barely storm force. He looks confident and strong.
Category 1 – winds are increasing. He tries to maintain composure.
Category 2 – full blown hurricane now. He is showing signs of discomfort and concern.
Category 3 – he would be putting up sand bags and seeking shelter if he could, but sadly (for him, not for the rest of us), he couldn’t.
Giant Voice poster in Iraq (2009)
I just returned from a week in (an undisclosed location in SW Asia), and although this was my third trip into theater, the only “Giant Voice” announcements I ever heard sounded like “mphhMPPPLphr”, or the sound you might hear if you put your hand over your mouth and tried to say something important.
But this time I heard it loud and clear. A few of us (me, MAD Magazine legend Sam Viviano, our USO rep, and the DOD escort) were lingering in the Dining Facility (known universally as the DFAC) and the DOD escort was telling us a story. In mid-sentence she was interrupted by the Giant Voice.
There were incoming IDFs, or Indirect Fire projectiles and the announcement told us to take cover. Our USO companion, an experienced and well-traveled man, looked at me for an instant and dropped to the floor. So did the DOD escort.
I am no Einstein, but when the two most experienced people in a group of four dive to the floor, it is a pretty good idea to do the same.
After the impact (two mortars hit near another DFAC and no one was killed, thankfully), we were given the all clear and sat back up at the table.
Then the DOD escort continued her story as if nothing had happened at all.
I didn’t hear a word she said.
I was on a USO tour last week and was unable to post about a week and a half’s worth of scheduled cartoons and articles. Now that we have returned, I decided it would be best to just post them all at once. Everything from August 4th until today have now been put up for you to read.
PS It’s good to be home!