NATICK, Mass. – Fans of the long-running comic strip "Beetle Bailey" got a bit of a surprise June 16, when its creator, Mort Walker, chose to set aside his usual military-inspired humor to tackle a more serious subject.
That day's three-panel strip showed Beetle Bailey experiencing the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD – including nightmares and trouble sleeping. The third panel reminds readers that "Post-traumatic stress can affect any Soldier." That message from Walker helped kick off a public service campaign by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program to bring attention to the invisible wounds of war – post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury – during June, National PTSD Awareness Month.
The Home Base program, founded in 2009, has provided clinical treatment for more than 600 veterans and Family Members, and it has educated more than 7,500 clinicians nationwide about PTSD and traumatic brain injury, known as TBI.
In a video he recorded, Walker, an 89-year-old Army veteran of World War II, discussed why he used Beetle Bailey to help shed light on this issue.
"I feel so sorry for the veterans that have that post-traumatic stress," Walker said. "I would do anything to help them – even one, even one, if I could.”
In the three-minute video, Walker talks about growing up in the Midwest, becoming a cartoonist, and developing the Beetle Bailey characters based on his Army experience.
"If you can make somebody happy, boy, I'll tell you, that cures all kinds of problems that people have," Walker said. "It's my business, in a way, and I enjoy that part of it."
Beetle Bailey is one element of the Home Base campaign's series of messages about helping Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their Families recover from those invisible wounds. Developed pro bono by advertising firm Hill Holliday, it features print, radio, online and electronic billboards.
"There's no greater honor than being of service to our veterans and military Families," said Mike Sheehan, Hill Holliday chairman. "We are honored to offer our resources, creativity and support to Home Base, and to raise awareness about post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. Returning veterans and their Families deserve every resource available to help them adjust to life back home."
Numerous media outlets contributed advertising space and time to the Home Base campaign.
"These messages are timely and urgent," said retired Brig. Gen. Jack Hammond, Home Base executive director. "Although the war in Iraq has ended and more troops are returning from Afghanistan, it is critical that we remember that for many veterans and their Families, these wars have not ended and the return home has meant nightmares and difficulty sleeping, no longer feeling safe in everyday places, trouble concentrating, severe headaches and Family stress."
"The clinicians and staff of Home Base and all of our veterans and Family Members are so grateful for the talent and generosity of Hill Holliday in creating this unique and very powerful campaign. We are also grateful for the generous contribution of Mr. Mort Walker, and especially to our media partners, who have recognized the importance of this issue and made the decision to step up in support of our returning veterans and Families."
For more information about the Home Base program and its public service campaign, visit www.helpathomebase.org. To view Mort Walker's video, go to http://bit.ly/19vbCBo.