Front row L to R: Steve Moore, Jeff Myers, Rick Kirkman, Marcus Hamilton.
Back row L to R: Mason Mastroianni, Paul Combs, Jeff Keane, me
The Lovely Anna and I spent this past weekend in beautiful Boise, ID, in support of one of the most unique and wonderful programs to help our wounded warriors in action today- The Wyakin Warriors Foundation. I wrote a bit about it last week before we left.
A Wyakin is a Native American “spirit guide” that legend says appears to a young warrior during a rite of passage where he is left alone on a mountainside to await a vision. Usually an animal such as a wolf, bear, or eagle, this “Wyakin” becomes a guardian angel for the young warrior and follows him throughout his life, offering guidance, strength and support.
The name is very apt for this program. The Wyakin Warriors is a lot more than just a privately funded source of free tuition for several wounded veterans. They provide mentors that aid and guide their charges throughout their continued education, and for a year beyond when they help find them placement and assist in their assimilation into civilian life. They also provide a lifetime membership in a tight, fraternal group that provides a source of support, friendship and continued resources like networking for the rest of a Wyakin Warriors life. These wounded veterans can have a particularly hard time mixing back into civilian life. Most were medically “retired” so they have no options for continued military service, and many deal with post traumatic stress and other mental challenges on top of their physical ones. Just throwing money at them is not enough, they need the kind of support the Wyakin Warriors program provides in order to stay on task and follow through on their education, developing workplace skills and ultimate entrance into the workplace with an eye on upward mobility.
How effective is the Wyakin Warriors program? The national average for injured war veterans successfully completing their post-military college educations is only 12%. The Wyakin Warriors graduation rate? 100%. That is due to the tireless efforts of the Wyakin Warriors board, staff, and support personnel. They are truly inspirational. I expect this program to become the prototype for future wounded warrior support initiatives all over the country.
So what do a bunch of cartoonists have to do with it? Well, not much except for trying to do our part to raise funds to keep this terrific program going, and adding more and more wounded warriors to their family.
Paul Combs, Jeff Keane, myself, Steve Moore and Jeff Myers getting filmed for a TV spot
Actually the Wyakin Warriors program was the brainchild of a fellow cartoonist, retired navy captain Jeff Bacon (Broadside, Greenside). You can read all about Jeff here, but that only scratches the surface. Jeff’s tireless work and advocacy for our wounded veterans and those still serving have made an enormous difference in the lives of countless men and women who have served our country. When Jeff needs me to do something in support of any of his efforts, I will set aside anything and everything do do whatever he asks of me.
Drawing at the Guardian Ball
In the case of the Wyakin Warriors, Jeff has invited groups of cartoonists to Boise to appear at their annual Guardians Ball to help raise money for the organization. For us, this amounts to no more than putting on a tux, drawing a few pictures for people and meeting and greeting sponsors and individuals who are there to support the WW. We also take the opportunity to visit the local VA hospital to draw for veterans there getting medical attention. We also donate artwork to a silent auction, and the official artwork for the Ball is created by one of the cartoonists (this year by Paul Combs) and auctioned off. I don’t think we really do much for the actual raising of real money for the WW, but we do have a lot of fun drawing for everybody. This year’s crew of cartoonists were:
- Bill Amend (FoxTrot)
- Jeff Bacon (Broadside/Greenside)
- Todd Clark (Lola)
- Paul Combs (Firefighter cartoonist)
- Marcus Hamilton (Dennis the Menace)
- Jeff Keane (The Family Circus)
- Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues)
- Mason Mastroianni (B.C.)
- Glenn McCoy (The Flying McCoys)
- Steve Moore (In the Bleachers)
- Jeff Myers (The Simpsons)
Here’s a link to a TV news story about our visit (sorry, can’t embed), and the pictures posted here are by The Lovely Anna.
Jeff, me and Mason drawing for WW supporters
The Wyakin Warriors recieve no funding from any government sources, it is 100% privately funded. Like any such organization, they are always short of funds to accomplish all they’d like to accomplish. Whatever your politics, whether you think these wars are fair or foul, these wounded warriors deserve our support. You can donate to the Wyakin Warriors directly here, if you are so inclined.