USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) got the chance to meet a group of distinguished artists from the National Cartoonists Society during a USO-sponsored tour Aug. 29-Sept. 1.
"We are here to draw for (the Sailors and Marines), hopefully bring some smiles to their faces and bring a little bit of home," said Tom Richmond, an artist for NOW, Marvel Comics and MAD Magazine, and one of six cartoonists on the tour.
While aboard, the cartoonists toured the aircraft carrier, observed flight operations, met with budding cartoonists from the crew and drew caricatures and personalized cartoons for hundreds of Sailors and Marines.
The visitors all came to know each other through the National Cartoonists Society and for the last several years have worked with the USO to come out to ships and bases and show their support for forward-deployed troops.
"We are all members of the National Cartoonists Society," said Jeff Bacon, creator and illustrator of Broadside. "[This] actually started out with 'chalk talks' that cartoonists did for soldiers in WWII, so we have a long history of supporting the troops and their efforts."
The cartoonists came to the ship to make people smile, but as their visit progressed, it became clear that they got just as much enjoyment out of the Sailors and Marines as the Sailors and Marines did from them.
"The thing that really struck me was the friendly competitiveness around the ship," said Rick Kirkman, creator and illustrator of Baby Blues. "I've never seen anything like it. That competitiveness that makes everyone want to be better."
The cartoonists saw plenty of that competitiveness, pride and spirit while interacting with Sailors and Marines throughout their visit.
When meeting with the cartoonists, Sailors and Marines brought photos of their children, drawings they had done and even drawings they offered to the cartoonists as gifts.
"It's great just to hear the stories from all these people. It is just fantastic," said Dave Coverly, the creator and illustrator of Speed Bump. "We get to let them know that we appreciate what they're doing out here."
The individuals from the National Cartoonists Society are all accomplished illustrators and story tellers. But as successful professionals, these nationally-renowned cartoonists were able to recognize and appreciate the professionalism and teamwork the Enterprise crew has to offer.
"There's an incredible sense of history on this ship, but generally, with the people I talk to, it isn't so much the boat they're on. They take more pride (in) the people around them," said Sam Viviano, art director for MAD Magazine. "That's what makes the Enterprise; it's the crew. Not the walls or the nuts and bolts, but the fact that they depend on the people around them to do the things they do and they are proud of all of those people as much as they are of themselves."
When talking with the cartoonists, it becomes clear they have a large part of their hearts set aside for soldiers, Sailors and Marines. Those service members who met them could sense that appreciation.
"I had a lot of fun getting to know the cartoonists and letting them know what ship life is like," said Hull Technician Fireman Matt A. Smith. "I think it was awesome. They were very friendly and were interested in both my home and Navy life."
The cartoonists brought the Enterprise much-needed smiles and laughs during deployment.
"The most interesting thing to me about the Enterprise, and any of our visits, is meeting the people," said Jeff Keane, creator and illustrator of The Family Circus. "Hearing the stories about people you don't know, (you realize that) they are affected by what we do, but we are affected way more by what they do."
The visit to Enterprise marks the last stop on the cartoonist's most recent tour, which also included a stop in Bahrain. They are scheduled to return to the United States shortly after departing Enterprise.
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