Beetle Bailey fans have never seen anything quite like it.
Running steadily since 1950, the comic strip by Mort Walker -- which features the misadventures of a rather under-motivated private and his perennial clashes with his arch-nemesis, Sergeant Snorkel -- has focused on the funny side of life in the U.S. Armed Forces. Still, on June 16, the three-panel-strip featured Beetle in bed having a series of nightmares relating to his experiences in the army. In the third panel, we see Bailey wide awake with the message, "Posttraumatic Stress Can Affect Any Soldier."
The strip was run by Mort Walker as a public service message to help kick off a public service campaign by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital's Home Base Program calling attention to the epidemic of posttraumatic stress among the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces. Beginning in the month of June, which is PTSD Awareness Month, the new campaign highlights the critical need for soldiers with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury symptoms (TBI) to come forward and seek treatment.
Although an estimated one-in-three veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are experiencing symptoms, these "invisible wounds of war" often go unrecognized until too late. The Home Base Program has been operating since 2009 and has helped hundreds of veterans as well as educating clinicians across the country about PTSD and TBI.
In the video he recorded to coincide with the running of his strip, the 89-year old Walker described his reasons for using his trademark character to relay his message about posttraumatic stress. A veteran of World War II, Walker stressed the importance of helping veterans. "I feel so sorry for the veterans that have that post-traumatic stress," he said. "I would do anything to help them -- even one, even one, if I could."
The Home Base campaign includes messages about returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who, along with their families, deal with trauma and the mental health problems it can cause. The campaign website includes links to local resources for veterans seeking help as well as an online self-assessment questionnaire to identify symptoms of posttraumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. There is also a questionnaire for family members measuring the emotional impact of dealing with traumatized relatives.
Describing the campaign, Home Base executive director John Hammond stresses that the messages of the campaign are timely and urgent. A retired Brigadier General who has served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has dealt with trauma firsthand and recognizes the vital need for better veteran care.
"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," General Hammond stated.
"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."
In developing the pro-bone Home Base advertising campaign, the Hill Holiday advertising agency arranged meetings with returning veterans and their families who received help from Home Base programs. To promote the campaign, media giants including the Boston Globe, Clear Channel, Jumptap and many others have donated thousands of dollars in advertising space and time to spread the message.