John Elway threw an incomplete pass now and then. In his prime, Tiger Woods three-putted every once in a while. Even the top cartoonists in the world get their cartoons rejected from time to time.
So if those guys have off days, you can imagine what it is like being me.
My handlers at Navy and Marine Corps Times have pretty much allowed me free rein with cartoon submissions, but even they have their limits.
Military cartoonists tread in hazardous waters because we poke fun of people who work in a very dangerous profession. Something that looks funny one day might become terribly inappropriate after an accident or battle. So I am glad the good folks I work for keep an eye on me. They are my wing men.
But sometimes the cartoons just don’t work. They aren’t funny (see “non-skid angels), no one understands them, or they cross the line into “inappropriate” territory. Like this one:
The editors thought it looked too … how shall I say … anatomically correct. Not my intention, but if they thought it looked bad, so would others. That launcher, by the way, took me FOREVER to draw. In its place, this one got published:
(I think the CIWS one was funnier.)
There are others out there, most of which, upon introspection, were definitely not appropriate for publishing. There are others that I wish they HAD rejected. Over the span of 28 years drawing Broadside, I have often been asked which is my favorite cartoon. That is a tough question, but the one that I usually name is this one – not because it is drawn particularly well, but because it is so true:
I never get asked which is my LEAST favorite.
Vice Admiral. Get it?
Nobody else did either. Even I don’t think it is funny, and I drew it. Yet it got published back in June 2010.
My wing men must have returned to base that day.
MA2 Mark Mayo
You have heard the story. On the night of March 24, 2014 a man boarded USS MAHAN (DDG 72), wrestled with and eventually disarmed the Petty Officer of the Watch, and – if not for the immediate action of Petty Officer Mayo – could have killed several Sailors on board.
But he wasn’t expecting the fast and decisive reaction by Mark Mayo, who ran aboard, got between the assailant and the Petty Officer (shielding her with his own body), and was fatally shot during the exchange of gun fire. His actions delayed the shooter long enough, however, for other security personnel to arrive and kill the man.
By all accounts he was a beloved member of the base security team, and had an easy going, likeable personality. It is obvious that his death was a devastating blow to his family and shipmates (read the story on the memorial service at the Norfolk Naval Station here).
He died too young, as have many men and women who serve our country, but he died the death of a warrior, saving lives by sacrificing his own. Many people have called him a hero.
And so do I. In every sense. Rest in peace, Petty Officer Mayo. Other Sailors are alive because of you.
As I talked to a buddy on the phone about nonprofit business while simultaneously trying to do taxes, answer emails, and think about something to write about, I absently sketched on a pad of paper.
When I hung up, this is what I saw.
In psychology circles, this would be what they call…well, I don’t know what they would call it since I’m not a psychologist. But in some circles it is called “a tell.” In Navy circles, it is called “losing it.”
I think it has to do with taxes.
With all due respect to the professional, remarkably bright and handsome IRS auditors reading this, taxes are not fun. I don’t know how many years it takes to understand that tossing receipts and bank statements into boxes so they can be “sorted out later” does not make for a pleasant tax preparation experience.
Complicating things, life continues with jobs, emails, phone calls and errands. Today was one of those days when everything happened.
The military trains you to deal with stress. I can deal with stress. But add taxes into the book of worries and before you know it you are drawing a self portrait of yourself losing it.
The medical world has a treatment called implosion therapy, which is “A behavioral therapeutic technique that exposes a client to anxiety-provoking stimuli, through his or her own imagination, in an attempt to extinguish the anxiety associated with the stimuli.” (Glossary of Psychological Terms)
Fight stress with stress.
Doing taxes, then, can actually be beneficial. Maybe at some point, if the stress gets severe enough, I will suddenly feel relaxed and calm, thanks to the IRS.
Thank you, IRS.
Until that happy day arrives, I will continue filling out forms, digging out receipts and trying to keep track of our money.
And hoping I don’t lose it.
Almost lost among the silliness of April Fool’s Day this week was a milestone that marked the creation of one of the best things that ever happened to the Navy. On April 1, 1893, the rank of Chief Petty Officer was announced, and the Navy was never the same again.
It was better.
There is not an officer or Sailor alive today who cannot name at least one Chief Petty Officer who had a dramatic impact on his or her life. Chiefs have the unique ability to understand the big picture while at the same time empathizing with the men and women impacted at the deck plate level.
Behind closed doors the Chiefs bluster and argue and try to reason with the chain of command in order to accomplish the mission the right way, while at the same time protecting those who will have to carry out the orders. When the door finally opens, though, the Chiefs announce the decision – whether they believe it is the right one or not – as if it were their own.
Personally, I was blessed to have served with several Chiefs, Senior Chiefs and Master Chiefs who shepherded me through my career – from the days of being a green Ensign to the final days in uniform. They trained me to be a sailor, they taught me how to lead, and they counseled me when I was about to make a mistake. And I suspect my experience is no different than most.
They are masters of their respective trades, insightful counselors to young and old, and make up the most cohesive element of the Navy. It was an honor to learn from them, and an honor to serve alongside them.
The Chief. Nothing more needs to be said.