This past week I spent my time in the company of Heroes. I had the wonderful opportunity of volunteering with eight other cartoonists from the NCS (National Cartoonists Society). The USO sponsored our mission to travel to Washington D.C and then to Germany to the front lines of where our wounded warriors are taken care of and draw for them. When one of our soldiers are wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan they are flown immediately to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Landstuhl, Germany. They will spend unto 72 hours there depending on their condition and then they will be flown to Walter Reed medical facility in Washington D.C. We were told that to date, they have only lost 3 lives once they were in the Landstuhl facility. The doctors have been doing an excellent job.
The majority of warriors will fortunately never see a battle again, but unfortunately have been disfigured and lost many of their limbs. It was an eye opening experience, a sad one and an enlightening one. Our job was to go boost the soldier’s moral by either drawing their favorite cartoon characters or drawing their caricature. They loved it. The USO told us that the visit from the cartoonists is the most appreciated and their favorite visit. I could really sense that when we went from room to room visiting with what they call “our wounded warriors” and they are warriors indeed. I heard so many heartfelt stories as I had the chance to speak with these guys one on one. There are so many that I can’t write them all here. The one thing that I discovered was their undeniable bravery. Whether they were missing a leg or had been shot in the neck or chest, they were willing and ready to go back and finish their tour of duty down range (their term for
the fight) with their mates.
Every day I sit in the comfort of my own home studio, I have a roof over my family’s head, a hot shower and an abundance of good food and clothing. I have the ability to walk into any store and buy whatever I like (for the most part). I have air conditioning in my home for when it is too hot, and a heater for when it is too cold. This experience for me was another daily reminder as to how fortunate we really are. I met a young Marine who had just come back from surgery, he was 21 years old and had no more legs to stand on and no hands to touch with, this was the hardest one for me, yet he was thrilled to meet us and get some artwork to hang on the bare walls. As I write this I am tearing up thinking of his sacrifice. I met another young Marine taunted with guilt as he described how his best friend was killed next too him because as a squad leader he had told him to open a door that they didn’t realize was booby trapped with an explosive.
I was born an Englishman and am proud to now call myself an American. It feels amazing to be able to give just a little bit back through my drawings to the guys who are protecting our freedom. I am proud to have been in the company of heroes. No lines are too long; no traffic jam is too bad. We are free and there is a huge sacrifice that I have now seen first hand. I am grateful for all of the warriors and to have been invited by the USO to be a part of such a wonderful project.
Make it a great week.
You can view a little slideshow “>here.