Sunday, October 23rd, 2005

Garry Trudeau on Doonesbury, the War, Accessing the Military, and B.D.’s Wounds

Did Beetle Bailey ever face PTSD?

Here, in a speech about his process of writing his current threads about B.D.’s transformation from warrior to amputee, is why Trudeau remains the most important cartoonist of this or any other decade:

I recently spent the day in Silver Spring, Md., at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post and a vet center, talking to two veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom who are about to leave the service and make their way back into civilian life.

Both have grievous wounds. One is an amputee, the other has metal plates in his back and a head full of brutal memories.

There was the day he was sent out to lead a patrol with poorly armored vehicles, no intel briefing, no maps, no communication systems, and just two magazines of ammunition — one with only tracers. It was a misbegotten mission that got one of his men killed, and he’ll never forget it.

Both soldiers, with the help of incredibly dedicated counselors, are trying to figure out how to live with their emotional wounds as they make the transition out of a military culture that still stigmatizes post-traumatic stress syndrome, and then into a civilian population that can’t possibly understand what they’ve been through.

The reason that I’ve been listening to their stories is that my character B.D. is now at that precise point in his own life, and I need to learn about what that must feel like before I can write about it.

When and if I finally do, I have to do another terrible thing: I have to make it funny. And I have to find a way of doing so without contributing to the suffering that these young veterans are enduring.

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