I did this spot illustration for the tour and a postcard we gave away. Each artist
had their own card. Believe it or not a few sailors didn’t get the joke.
The National Cartoonists Society has a long tradition supporting the men and women serving our country in the U.S. military. In fact, the NCS originally formed from a group of cartoonists who did chalk talks for US troops during World War II, and continued to visit active military personnel during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Several years ago the NCS and the USO once again teamed up to renew this tradition of sending groups of cartoonists out on tours to meet and draw for the men and women in the military both here in the States and deployed overseas. I’ve been lucky enough to be included in several of these trips. Click the following links to read about my exploits in Washington D.C., Germany, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Also please read this post about NCS member and retired navy captain Jeff Bacon, who is the driving force behind the renewal of this practice, and without whom none of these amazing trips would have been possible.
I just returned from another of these trips, and while the ones to D.C and Landstuhl to draw wounded warriors and those to the active war zones in the middle east were incredible experiences, I really think this one tops them all. Our destination: Land bases in the Persian Gulf and then four days at sea on the legendary aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.
Our group consisted of Jeff Bacon (creator of the Navy themed comic strip Broadside), Dave Coverly (creator of the daily syndicated panel Speed Bump and 2009 Reuben Award Winner aka NCS “Cartoonist of the Year”), Jeff Keane (cartoonist on the daily syndicated panel The Family Circus, originally created by his late father Bil Keane), Rick Kirkman (co-creator/cartoonist of the daily syndicated comic strip Baby Blues), Sam Viviano (long-time artist for and current art director of MAD Magazine) and myself. We were accompanied by our USO guide Jeremy Wilcox and USO photographer Mike Clifton. It’s important to find the right mix of cartoonists to do one of these trips—not just having artists who’s strip or publication is pretty recognizable and well-known, but also those who are dedicated to the purpose at hand: drawing for and meeting the soldiers or sailors. It’s incredibly interesting to see these places we visit and the bases/ships we spend time on, but that should be a distant second in importance to spending time with the troops. Everyone in this group had that attitude, and while we appreciated getting to see a lot of cool things, we enjoyed our time with the sailors and airwing personnel the most. My fellow cartoonists met with and drew hundreds and hundreds of men and women who are all making great sacrifices in being away from home, friends and family, as well and being in harm’s way and doing a dangerous job all to serve our country. I know I speak for our entire group when I say it was our honor and privilege to be able to meet, talk with and draw for these brave folks, and I hope we left them with a feeling of the gratitude of our nation for their efforts . . . and a smile or laugh to go along with their drawing. All of them seemed so grateful for our making the long trek to be there with them, but the honor and pleasure was all ours.
Over the next few days, I will post the stories of our experiences on the tour. The bases were great, but the time we spend on the Enterprise was truly awe-inspiring. Unfortunately there are some things I will not be able to be specific about due to USO and Department of Defense security rules. Things like specifically where we stayed and the names and location of the bases there, or the exact location of the Enterprise. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.