“The Holidays:  A time of year when people who otherwise try to avoid each other can’t.”

— Stephan Pastis

It takes a certain kind of ass to quote himself at the beginning of his own blog.  Fortunately, that’s me.

But I think I’m more than just an ass.  I’m also a misanthrope.

I don’t like people.  I don’t like parties.  I don’t like the holidays.

Given that, the following will be woefully out of character.

Purists, look away.

. . .

We have in this country an all-volunteer army.  It creates two parallel universes.

One is at home getting their latte from Starbucks, upset that the best the cable company can do is give them a four-hour window for their appointment.  One is standing in 100 degree heat with 130 pounds of gear on their back, 9,000 miles from home, trying not to get killed.

The two groups’ collective experiences create a chasm deep and wide enough as to be seemingly unbridgeable.

But I learned on my USO trip to Iraq that it is bridgeable.

I have never been thanked by anyone as I was by those soldiers we visited in hospitals and on military bases.  Their thanks were as sincere and heartfelt as anything I’ve ever heard.  And as much as it was for our being cartoonists whose strips they might enjoy, I think it was also simply because we were there.

I obviously can’t speak for any of them, but I think it has to be pretty difficult to be living under the conditions they live under while many people here appear to have no awareness that they are even over there.  For everyone but their immediate friends and family, the war is something that just does not impact their lives.

I wish I could introduce them to you.  They were sincere and direct and respectful to a degree I have never experienced in my day-to-day life here.  And if something were to have posed a threat to any of us while we were there, I had no doubt they would have protected us before they protected themselves.

Obviously, you can’t pack your bags and book a Southwest flight to Baghdad.  But that’s not necessary.  Because it doesn’t take flying to Baghdad to have an impact.

You see, things that might not mean much in your daily routine — the receipt of a package, a letter, a phone call, an email — can mean the world to one of them. It makes the gap between us and them that much smaller.  So whatever you can do, no matter how small, do it.   Do just one thing for one soldier in a hospital or overseas.

For me, I was fortunate enough to know a cartoonist named Jeff Bacon.  While having absolutely no skill at ping pong and even less hair, he put together a trip under the sponsorship of the USO so that ten cartoonists could visit the military hospitals in Washington D.C. and Germany, and the military bases in Kuwait and Iraq.   And it brought an unbelievable amount of joy to a huge number of people.  As one dad said to us as we were leaving his wounded son’s hospital room, “That is the first time I’ve seen him smile since he got here.”

Of all the things I’ve been lucky enough to accomplish in my eight-year cartooning career, I have never been as proud of anything as I was to be associated with those other nine cartoonists:  Jeff Bacon, Chip Bok, Bruce Higdon, Garry Trudeau, Rick Kirkman, Mike Peters, Mike Ramirez, Jeff Keane and Tom Richmond.

I may give them shit in this blog, but it’s only because I care for them like they were my own brothers.

Maybe I am starting to like people.

Happy Thanksgiving.

47 thoughts on “Thanksgiving

  1. Well spoke! Be thankful for all in uniform. They do keep us safe 24/7 all around the world.

  2. Do you have a specific website or organization that you recommend we donate through? There are just so many different ‘help the troops’ orgs out there, that if there was one or even a few you particularly support, that could help focus the efforts of your fans. Thanks for the great blog post, this really is such an important issue, support for those that give so much, and the true spirit of our nation.

  3. Wow, Stephan. Those words were powerful. My cousin did 2 tours (I think that’s what they call them)in Iraq and I’ve seen pictures of when he was over there. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for those soldiers, especially around the holidays. I plan on writing to them this year.

  4. My husband, a LTC in the Army, was on the return flight with you and the other cartoonist. He said that he had a chance to speak with you while waiting in line for customs at Dulles. Your fellow cartoonist, Bacon, Higdon and Ramirez drew “Birthday Cartoons” for our son Carson – Yes, my husband had missed another birthday with our son. Thank all of you for lifting the spirits of our soldiers. You are appreciated more than you will ever know.

  5. Misanthrope, my ass! You’re just a big softie!

    Seriously, thank you for the post and again for your visits overseas. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  6. Great post and premise, but you have to keep in mind that cartoonists aren’t really people so the whole misanthrope thing doesn’t need to be abandoned 🙂

  7. You can like individuals yet still hate people in general. All that aside, this was a very nice post, and you did a good thing.

  8. Great, Pastis. You made me get all teary-eyed. I hope you’re happy.

    Seriously, thanks and God bless our troops.

  9. That was a very good thing to say. What we take for granted, much of the rest of the world would find a luxury. I appreciate the freedom our troops protect and thank them for their service.

  10. Stephan, thank you for going over there.

    American Soldiers, Thank You for all that do.

  11. Thank you for contributing some cheer to our troops, and for bringing this message to the rest of us. Reminders of what our men and women in uniform do in the service of our country are always appropriate.


  12. I can’t help but think Rat is waiting in the next panel to wack you with an oversized hammer with Kumbaya written on it, while Pig sighs with hands on hips.

  13. First things first – A BIG THANK YOU to all the soldiers, squids, marines and airmen from a fellow veteran. Your service is most appreciated here.
    Ok, now on to secondary business – way to go, Pastis. Damn you. I don’t like getting tears in my eyes. I’m too old for that crap.

  14. I sincerely appreciate your support, your visit to Walter Reed last year is still my favorite moment since I was wounded in May 2008 (yes, even better than going on the field before World Series game 1).

    Thanks again,

    Technical Sergeant Christopher Frost
    patient at Walter Reed since May 2008

  15. As a former US Army NCO, I thank you for your visit to the troops overseas. As a loyal reader of your comics, I thank you for your humor. Two thanks in one comment. It must be THANKSgiving.

  16. I was 10 minutes away from going to bed and then I decided to check your blog (like I regularly do)– and tonight I am so glad that I did.

    A co-worker of mine lost her son in Iraq a couple of years ago. Despite her devastating loss, she continues to support the soldiers in every way she can. She recently spearheaded a candy collection effort at our company, all of which will be sent to soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo (yes, we have troops there too). In total, we collected 15 boxes of candies, which also includes letters, cards and postcards from my other co-workers and their kids.

    God bless our troops and prayer for their safe homecoming.

  17. Fantastic post Stefan.

    As a Englishman, I never really ‘got’ Thanksgiving, but this last weekend my family was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner by an American friend. It was wonderful, and we felt honoured (with a ‘u’!) to be invited. As we sat down to eat, we were all asked to think of something to be thankful for, and your blog post reminded me that all of us in the affluent West do have a huge amount to be thankful for.

    Over here in Britain, Afghanistan is viewed as a very unpopular war, waged by an unpopular government, but that doesn’t stop the huge respect and admiration most people have for the troops over there.

    They deserve our thanks and unwavering support.

  18. Not a holiday guy either but today’s entry actually made me tear up. Good for you and your comrades. Somehow having the guys who gave us Rat and Duke in the same room would have to make anyone smile.

    God bless you and the others.

  19. Thanks to you and your fellow cartoonists.
    You’ve gotten a first hand look at the cost of
    “freedom of speech” that most Americans never
    will. Your efforts mean more than you’ll ever

  20. Stephan, don’t worry about turning soft…it seems to happen to all of us as we get older…we start to reflect on what matters in our lives and the freedoms we have due to our “volunteer army” is one of the things that matter. Happy Thanskgiving and peace to all! Thanks for all the fun you bring into my day with your strip.

  21. Wow Pastis, I think that was brilliant, in an awkward sense. Everyday I sit down to my computer to read your blog and all the hilarious/cruel/ironic situations you have. Today I sat down and read:
    “It takes a certain kind of ass to quote himself at the beginning of his own blog. Fortunately, that’s me.”
    Let me ask you something. What kind of an “ass” wakes us up on Thanksgiving to make us really think? This same “ass” makes us realize that through his hilarious/cruel/ironic situations, and all the gained wisdom he shares with the package, we do have a reason to be thankful. That guy is pretty awesome. That ass is my hero. As lame as it seems. Thank you again, and happy Thanksgiving.

  22. Pingback: This ain’t Hell, but you can see it from here » Blog Archive » A cartoonist meets our troops

  23. One of the earlier posts asked for names of organizations people can donate to. I’d like to know, too – an organization that doesn’t scoop off big salaries for its executives, but actually helps the troops. Did any of the soldiers mention a particularly good organization? Thanks –

  24. Soldier’s Angels is a great organization with dozens of ways to help. I have seen the good things they provide the wounded warriors.

  25. As a troop, thank you Stephan, for making the trip. You took the opportunity, as so few people would, to see with your own eyes what’s going on over there. That shows real character and patriotism.
    To Pearls readers: I would recommend donating to the USO, the organization that sponsored Stephan’s trip. You might have seen USOs in airports or on military installations. They provide free entertainment, rest areas, and snacks for troops all over the world, and believe me, their efforts are deeply appreciated. They would appreciate donations because it is a volunteer-run organization.

    Again, many thanks to Stephan, and to all those who support us. Happy holidays!

    2nd Lt. Amelia Thatcher
    New Jersey Army National Guard

  26. Thanks for making the trip- As a career military type, the USO shows were great, because they brought a touch of home, and a couple of hours ‘away’ for the battlespace… And yeah, Bacon ‘should’ have known how, seeing that he’s a retired Navy Captain… 🙂

  27. *Sniff* That could possibly be the most beautiful post you’ve ever made. My Uncle went to Iraq, and my grandpa was a WWII vet. Thank you so much for that. It definitly makes me want to do a lot more!

    And is it just me, or is your inner rat showing his inner heart?

  28. Thanks Stephan. As a vet and the father of a Marine who did two tours in Iraq, I appreciate the trip you and your friends made for the troops. Any effort to remind these great men and women that they are not forgotten is so important. Your strip may be “dark”, but you really brighten things up.

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