It is late night in Kuwait and we are getting ready to fly into Iraq.
This is the moment each of us gets our body armor. A helmet and bulletproof vest. A vest that weighs 32 pounds.
It is the first time I have had to do arm curls to put on clothing.
With the body armor on, I summon my inner GI Joe. I feel very cool.
I pose for this:
I am immediately mocked because my camouflage does not match. My helmet is one type. My vest is another.
I am the military equivalent of a patchwork hobo.
I assuage my hurt feelings by telling myself that at least I look cooler than Mother Goose and Grimm creator Mike Peters.
Not to mention Baby Blues co-creator Rick Kirkman, who clearly looks like something that just stepped out of Hogan’s Heroes :
That’s to say nothing of Family Circus creator Jeff Keane, who is a mixture of not one, not two, but three types of mismatched camouflage.
If I am a hobo, he is Cuddles the Circus Clown.
Our mockery is interrupted by our USO host.
“Alright, everyone, before we get on the plane, I need to write your name on the tag on each of your helmets,” she says. “You are responsible for this helmet. If you lose it, your trip is over.”
We all hand her our helmets.
“Write ‘Big Hot Stud’ on mine,” I tell her. “The other guys will know who that is.”
Our USO host says nothing.
When she is finished writing our names on all the helmets, she gives them all back, and we proceed to the C17 that will take us into Iraq.
On the shuttle to the plane, Rick Kirkman takes my picture.
He is much too excited about taking this picture.
Something is wrong.
I take off the helmet and look at the tag.
Rather than tell you what it says, I will simply show you the photo. But before I do, I want to say this.
Throughout the trip and throughout the re-telling of the trip in this blog, I have shown nothing but the greatest respect and courtesy to these, my fellow professional cartoonists.
And this is the treatment I get.