Drawing heroes


This is not your every day hero story. These people have never been to boot camp, nor have they received combat pay. But in my eyes – and in the eyes of many troops – they are heroes nonetheless.

They draw funny pictures for a living.

397Tom Richmond
Art by Tom Richmond

A lot of people draw cartoons, but these guys are a different breed of cartoonist. They travel to military hospitals to cheer up the men and women who have literally sacrificed for their country. They head out to combat zones to boost the morale of those on the front lines. Many of them have seen combat – or at least had a mortar or two tossed their way – and yet, they go again.

Bruce Higdon

Some of them draw the most famous cartoons in the world, seen by millions of fans every day. By all rights they could remain in the comfort of their beloved studios and no one would blame them for it. But they go.

(Bruce Higdon, Mason Mastroianni, Ed Steckley)

And in the process they have formed a bond with the thousands of troops they have visited. Jeff Keane of The Family Circus gives a reasonable explanation – the cartoonists bring a little bit of home to the deployed troops.

Jeff Keane

The genesis of the visits dates all the way back to World War II, when cartoonists were asked to conduct “chalk talks” for the servicemen overseas. Normally relegated to lonely studios, the artists realized that they actually liked each other. Those relationships resulted in the National Cartoonists Society, an organization that has continued the tradition through Korea, Vietnam, and the current wars.

cartoonists ENT397

Their passion, though, rests with the wounded, ill and injured troops in military and VA hospitals.

Ed Steckley and Rob Harrell (Brooke Army Medical Center)

They come in groups to stand by bedsides and physical therapy rooms to sketch and lift the spirits of those who are suffering. At the end of the day the are emotionally exhausted, but they would do it again if asked – any time, and to a man (or woman).

Chad Carpenter autographs a prosthetic leg

They did it again just recently in Boise, Idaho, to benefit severely wounded and injured veterans who are attending school in the Wyakin Warrior program.

Wyakin Warrior Guardian Ball

It is only fitting, really, since the Wyakin Warrior organization traces its own roots back to cartooning – it was inspired by the USO visits as a natural follow-on to the cartoonists’ morale building trips.

Heroes? Maybe with a lower case “h”, but when some people do nothing at all for the troops, they do. They are our heroes of the week.



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