Cartoonists review their trip to Iraq

The cartoonists that too part in the NCS/USO trip to Washington D.C., Germany and on to Iraq have returned and are posting photos and reviews of their experience. The group met with soldiers to provide some humor in tough situations.

MAD Magazine cartoonist Tom Richmond has written the first part of a review of his experience.

Some of the soldiers get emotional and seeing how much of themselves they have given, both body and mind, can really make your heart ache. One soldier who had lost his leg to an I.E.D. in Afghanistan was with his wife and two brand new twin babies and could only say over and over again in a voice thick with emotion how lucky he felt to be back live and be able to see them grow up. It’s hard to grasp how much it’s cost these young men and women to serve their country, and it’s inspirational to hear them say they did what they did because they loved their jobs and their country.

The day we visited these facilities they were running a training drill and the therapy/rehab rooms at Walter Reed were closed, so we did not get to visit with those soldiers who are fighting to recover as much mobility and functionality as they can via sweat and tears in the gym. In my opinion, that was the most inspirational thing I saw on last year’s trip… a huge room full of kids with missing limbs and other trauma, gritting their teeth and scratching and clawing thorough unbelievable pain to regain as much of what they had lost as possible. That is courage. How easy would it be to crawl into a pity bag and curse the world for the ills they had suffered? Far easier than the excruciating road of rehabbing some terrible injuries. There is no quit in these kids.

Chip Bok writes on his blog:

We arrived in Kuwait at night and, as Tracy issued our body armor in the Persian Gulf humidity, she announced that we were considered high value targets. I don’t think Tracy’s warning had quite the effect she was going for. Given the current state of the newspaper cartoon business, being considered a high value anything is a great achievement.

Stephan Pastis:

If there was any doubt that we were not in Kansas anymore, that was resolved by the high blast walls surrounding our hotel. Most hotels I stay in are surrounded by Applebees and Barnes & Noble.

Then there’s the military ship guarding the coastal access to the hotel’s beach. And it’s not pulling any parasailers.

The entire picture is enough to make you understand why there is no “Rick Steves’ Kuwait.”

Jeff Bacon:

I pulled out a six iron and lined up. I whispered to myself to watch the ball, keep my left arm straight and follow through. As I drew back and began to swing, a thousand thoughts shot through my brain, and none of them were about golf.

I thought of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The no-fly zones. The STARK. Operation Iraqi Freedom. All the men and women who gave their lives and limbs to fight a tyrant so self-absorbed that he diverted water from the Tigris River to create man-made lakes for his palaces, at the expense of local farmers whose fields went dry. A man who took pleasure in torture – the real, horrible, medieval kind.

I thought of the magnificent troops we had met, stationed a million miles from home in hostile territory, yet still capable of flashing a smile and deflecting any praise directed their way.

That swing – at least to me – was for all of them. As I connected, I watched the ball sail straight and true, plopping harmlessly in Saddam’s lake.