Four nationally known cartoonists and caricaturists, Jeff Bacon, creator of the “Broadside” and “Greenside” cartoons; Mason Mastroianni, “B.C.”; Paul Fell, Paul Fell, caricaturist and illustrator for Cornhuskers Illustrated; and Bruce Higdon, caricaturist and creator of Punsters, visited troops last week at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital, aboard the USS SAN JACINTO (CG-56) and at the Bethesda National Medical Center. The visit was the East Coast portion of the Operational Stress Control program’s Humor Tour, which is designed to help mitigate stress through humor and laughter. All are all members of the National Cartoonists Society and regularly entertain troops stateside and overseas.
Humor Tour Brings Laughs, Cartoons to Portsmouth Wounded Warriors
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nikki Smith, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Public Affairs
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) — The Humor Tour, part of the Navy’s Operational Stress Control (OSC) program, made a stop at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Sept. 7, featuring the founder and director of the Humor Project and four nationally known cartoonists from the National Cartoonist Society.
Humor Project founder Dr. Joel Goodman’s presentation “Hope, Humor and Healing” was geared toward caregivers and focused on the positive power of humor and creativity and its effects on healing. The cartoonists met with members of the Wounded Warrior Battalion – East Detachment, drawing cartoons and caricatures for them.
The Humor Tour is part of OSC’s goal of safeguarding Sailors against the stressors of Navy life by helping them become more psychologically resilient. To do that, the Navy established OSC to help leaders, Sailors and their families become better able to prepare for, recover from and adjust to life in the face of stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy.
One especially effective awareness strategy has been to incorporate humor. The four cartoonists have volunteered their efforts to the program for more than two years. They were recently joined by Goodman, resulting in this tour.
Goodman started his humor movement in 1977 to show people how to take humor seriously and use it in their daily lives to ease stress. As part of the OSC program, Goodman says humor can be used in various ways to help alleviate tension in difficult situations.
“Stress comes with the territory of your job; humor can give some levity to the stressful situations you encounter,” Goodman said to NMCP caregivers during his presentation. “Humor can include so much more than just knock-knock jokes. Humor is an attitude; it provides perspective and a way to get through tough times.”
Goodman developed his program after dealing with his father’s illness and hospitalization. He and his mother would ride a shuttle from their hotel to the hospital each day. The driver, Alvin, was the first person with whom Goodman saw the positive effects of humor. Alvin made Goodman and his mother laugh during their short rides and this helped them and their whole family get through that difficult time.
Similar to Goodman’s experience, military members often deal with anxious and tense situations. Goodman said that applying the practical, positive power of humor and creativity can ease a lot of the stress that comes with being in the military.
“I encourage everyone to look for the humor in everyday situations,” he said, “and that a child-like perspective can be a very mature coping mechanism.”
Also part of the project, cartoonists Jeff Bacon, creator of the “Broadside” and “Greenside” cartoons; Mason Mastroianni, “B.C.” comic strip artist; Paul Fell, of Paul Fell Cartoons; and Bruce Higdon, “Punderstatements” comic strip artist, spent the morning with the wounded warriors, drawing cartoons and caricatures for them.
“This was a really fun change of pace,” said Lance Cpl. Chris Pratt, a Marine from the battalion. “They brought a little humor here, and it was a welcome change. The cartoonists took the time to talk with us and make us laugh. It was a really good time.”
The society’s visits to troops reach back to World War II, when cartoonists visited troops during the war. Afterward, they realized how much they enjoyed traveling together and giving back to the military. The National Cartoonists Society was formed, and the visits continued during the Korean and Vietnam wars. In 2005, they started visiting troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, continuing the tradition of supporting military troops during war times.
“As a retired soldier, I’ve been the recipient of USO visits from celebrities while I was deployed in faraway places,” Higdon said. “To this day, I remember those visits and the time people took to come see us and spend a few minutes to lift our spirits.
“I’ve become involved in visiting today’s troops,” Higdon continued, “because I want to make them feel like they are important and appreciated. I’ve been in their shoes, and when you’re down and out and someone comes to tell you that they appreciate you – it’s priceless.”
OSC Program and Humor Tour information can be found at www.NavyNavStress.com.
For more news from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, visit www.navy.mil/local/nmcp/.