Garry Trudeau Addresses the Troops
Garry Trudeau wrote a piece that ran in Stars & Stripes, commenting on the current military and their reaction to his comic strip, Doonesbury.
Noting that S&S began running the strip during the Vietnam war impressed him, he said, “the strip was unambiguously anti-war in outlook, it was a counterintuitive move on the part of the editors, and there were several campaigns to dump it. Fortunately, there was always a noisy cadre of readers who stood ready to support it, and the strip somehow survived.”
What prompted him to write was the tenor of the letters he’d been receiving from soldiers and related personnel who took issue with his depictions of soldiers here and aboard.
“Since I was first invited to visit with troops in Kuwait in 1991 (following an in-theater exhibit of my work that toured regional bases), I have talked with hundreds of military personnel. During my visit, I received Certificates of Achievement from both the 4th Battalion 67th Armor (‘For significant contributions to the morale of the United States Forces’) and the Ready First Brigade (For providing aid and comfort to the United States Forces’). More recently, I have toured military hospitals from Landstuhl to Walter Reed to Brooke, and VA hospitals and Vet Centers from Kansas City to Palo Alto, interviewing scores of wounded warriors about their experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and military sexual trauma (MST).
“I also maintain and edit a milblog called The Sandbox at doonesbury.com to which scores of active-duty military personnel contribute on a regular basis. A collection of their work was recently published, again to benefit Fisher House. In recognition of the strip, I’ve been honored to receive the Commander’s Award for Public Service by the Department of the Army, the Commander’s Award from Disabled American Veterans, the President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from Vietnam Veterans of America, the Distinguished Public Service Award from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and a special citation from the Vet Centers
“In listing the above, I hope I haven’t created too much confusion in my critics. I also hope they don’t view my pride as hubris. I am humbled by the service and the sacrifice of the many friends I have made in the military. I see my contributions to country as minor compared to theirs, and am deeply grateful for all the help I’ve received in trying to understand and illuminate the various challenges our warriors face in the line of duty. But I also think I’ve made a good-faith effort in trying to understand military culture and portray it sympathetically and usefully to the general public.
“Regular readers know that politics only occasionally intrude on my soldier stories, and that may explain the cognitive dissonance I seemed to have created in some quarters. Yes, it is possible to hate the war and love the warrior at the same time. My opposition to the war in Iraq is well-known, but so was my support for the first Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan. I’m a citizen of an open democracy, and free to judge for myself which wars I think are wise and just and which are not.
“I recognize, of course, that the troops who fight those wars have no choice, but I can also tell you from doing three book-signings at the Pentagon that support for Operation Iraqi Freedom is by no means strong throughout the ranks. Indeed, many of the officers I’ve met there are heartsick at the systemic damage an ill-advised war has inflicted on our military institutions.
“My point is not to argue whether this war should have been waged. However, the majority of the American people turned against it long ago and have disengaged, which makes efforts in the journalistic community to keep the focus on military and veteran issues all the more pressing. I have tried to play a small, constructive role in that undertaking, and fervently hope that whatever my shortcomings, readers of Stars and Stripes will continue to give the strip a fair reading.