National Cartoonist Society (NCS) President/cartoonist Jeff Keane (“The Family Circus”) visits troops and brings comic relief to America’s bravest during USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour to Germany and the Middle East. Keane, who is traveling with fellow cartoonists/caricaturists Rick Kirkman (“Baby Blues”), Mike Luckovich, Stephan Pastis (“Pearls Before Swine”), Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine) and Garry Trudeau (“Doonesbury”), are drawing smiles and sketching personalized drawings for hundreds of U.S. troops. This is the second USO tour to the Middle East for Keane, Kirkman, Pastis, Richmond and Trudeau, who traveled together to Kuwait and Iraq in October 2009 and brighten the spirits of more than 1,600 troops, and the first Luckovich.
So far, the group has visited more than 300 troops stationed in Germany. Among the locations visited are the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, USO Warrior Center and Ramstein Air Force Base. In celebration of Veteran’s Day, throughout the week the group will sign autographs, give hugs and spread words of encouragement to America’s troops. They will also bring laughter to soldiers, listen to war stories and relay their heartfelt thanks.
The NCS traces its association with the USO to World War II, when professional cartoonists made repeated trips overseas to entertain troops. Whether visiting military hospitals, entertaining troops with chalk talks, or sharing words of encouragement, more than a hundred professional cartoonists and caricaturists have participated in military-related trips since 9/11. In 2008, the USO sponsored eight cartoonists to travel to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, National Naval Medical Center and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Similar trips (with different cartoonists and tour locations) have taken place in 2009 with the most recent one taking place just last month (visiting Walter Reed, National Naval Medical Center, Kuwait and Iraq) featuring Jeff Bacon (“Broadside” and “Greenside”), Dave Coverly (“Speedbump”), Bill Hinds (“Cleats” and “Tank McNamara”), Rob Harrell (“Adam@Home”), Tom Stiglich (“Uncle Joe”), Ed Steckley (MAD Magazine), Ray Alma (MAD Magazine), Mason Mastroianni (“B.C.”), Chad Carpenter (“Tundra”) and Dave Mowder (Disney “Looney Tunes).