News: Cartoonists visit, draw for Coalition troops
Story by Spc. Jennifer Spradlin
CAMP HOLLAND, Afghanistan -- Three well-known cartoonists visited Coalition troops at Camp Holland, Afghanistan, Nov. 10, as part of an USO-sponsored morale tour.
Jeff Keane, cartoonist for the Family Circle, Stephen Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swing, and Tom Richmond, the featured artist for Mad Magazine, have spent the last week travelling to different bases across Afghanistan to draw and autograph souvenirs for soldiers.
A total of six cartoonists have partnered with the USO for the Afghanistan tour. This is the third year that the cartoonists have visited with Soldiers; they previously spent time with wounded soldiers in Germany, and soldiers deployed to Kuwait and Iraq.
“The reaction has been really great. I think I get more out of it than the soldiers do,” said Stephan Pastis. His comic has run in newspapers since 2002.
Pastis said soldiers are gracious and excited to meet with him and drawing for them is always the highlight of his year.
“I tell all the cartoonists that haven’t gone that they should go. It’s so rewarding. A whole different experience,” said Pastis.
Jeff Keane’s father Bil Keane, the creator of the Family Circus, visited American troops in Vietnam in 1968. Jeff Keane took over the comic when his father retired and carried on his father’s tradition of bringing a piece of home to deployed servicemembers.
“It was something that I remember quite clearly from when I was a kid. When this opportunity came, it was one of those things that I thought ‘yeah, I would love to do it,’” said Keane. The Family Circus has been featured in newspapers since 1960.
Keane said he felt these tours were an opportunity to remind troops that their service is appreciated back home.
“I think it is really important to continue to support the troops. For me, it’s not a political thing. They deserve to know that back home people think of them all the time and are aware of them being here,” said Keane.
There is a USO location in every major American airport and several locations throughout the Middle East to provide service members with positive recreation outlets and to help them maintain contact with their families. Even where there aren’t fixed USO locations, morale tours, such as the cartoonist tour, reach out to deployed service members.
“I believe it’s important for the soldiers to have these kinds of events because it reminds them of home and it gives them something a little out of the ordinary to break up the monotony of day-to-day soldiering tasks,” said Staff Sgt. Bryan Sewell, first of the 245th Aviation Operations Battalion, Oklahoma National Guard. The 1-245th AOB have been deployed to Camp Holland for six weeks.
Like many of the other soldiers, Sewell had his cartoon autographed to his children.
“My kids have been telling me that they want me to send them rocks or other little souvenirs, but this is something I think they will definitely enjoy,” said Sewell.
To learn more about the USO, visit www.uso.org