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.
A member of the armed forces forms inspects wreaths ahead of a Remembrance Day dawn service at Prospect Cemetery in Toronto, on Sunday November 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
People gather around the war monument during a Remembrance Day ceremony in downtown St. John's, NL, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Veterans salute as they take part in the National Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa Sunday, November 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
The Canadian flag is lowered to half mast during a Remembrance Day dawn service at Prospect Cemetery in Toronto, on Sunday November 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks with Hong Kong Veteran Arthur Kenneth Pifher, 91, of Grimsby, Ont., as they take part in a Remembrance Day ceremony at Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong on Sunday, November 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
A wreath sits infront of a military gravestone in the National Military cemetary in Ottawa, Friday November 9, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Service medals are seen on Australian retired General Peter Congrove, of NSW Centenary of Anzac Advisory Council Chair, during the Remembrance Day ceremony held at the cenotaph in Sydney on November 11, 2012. Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended the First World War (1914–18) and in memory of those who died or suffered in wars and armed conflicts. AFP PHOTO/ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman places a poppy flower on the cenotaph during Remembrance Day in Sydney on November 11, 2012. Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended the First World War (1914–18) and in memory of those who died or suffered in wars and armed conflicts. AFP PHOTO/ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Wooden crosses bearing pictures of fallen servicemen and women and messages from their loved ones are planted in a memorial field at Saltwell Park in Gateshead, north-east England, on October 29, 2012 ahead of Remembrance Day (Armistice Day) on November 11. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
An Israeli soldier stands in front of a wall of names memorial to fallen soldiers at the Armored Corps memorial, following a ceremony to mark Remembrance Day, or Memorial Day at Latrun Junction, near Jerusalem on April 25, 2012. Remembrance Day is followed immediately by the 61st anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel. AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
King Albert II of Belgium salutes during the commemoration of World War I (1914-1918), commonly known as Remembrance Day, at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in Brussels, on November 11, 2012. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / BENOIT DOPPAGNE (Photo credit should read BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 11: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall meets with New Zealand war veteran Staff Sgt Kirsty Meynell after the Armistice Day Commemoration at the Auckland War Memorial on November 11, 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand. The Royal couple are in New Zealand on the last leg of a Diamond Jubilee that takes in Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. (Photo by Ross Setford-Pool/Getty Images)
A US citizen carries wreath as he walks past walls where 36,286 names of missing are inscribed at the US cemetery and memorial during the Veterans Day memorial in Manila on November 11, 2012. The US cemetery contains the remains of 16,631 Americans who died in the Pacific, China,India, and Burma theaters of war. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 11: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales greets war veterans and members of the public following Armistice Day commemorations at the Auckland War Memorial Museum on November 11, 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand. The Royal couple have arrived in New Zealand on the last leg of a Diamond Jubilee that takes in Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
A US soldier carrying the US national flag stands at attention during the Veteran's Day commemoration at the US cemetery in Manila on November 11, 2012. The US cemetery contains the remains of 16,631 US citizens who died in the Pacific, China, India, and Burma theaters of war. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
Chelsea Pensioners march past the Cenotaph during Remembrance Sunday service in Whitehall, Central London, on November 11, 2012. Services are held annually across Commonwealth countries during Remembrance Day to commemorate servicemen and women who have fallen in the line of duty since World War I. AFP PHOTO/CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)
FORT WILLIAM, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 11: Servicemen and women join veterans as they attend a remembrance Sunday ceremony at Commando Memorial on November 11, 2012 in Spean Bridge, Scotland. Remembrance Sunday tributes were carried out across the nation to pay respects to all who those who lost their lives in current and past conflicts, including the First and Second World War . (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 11: King Albert II of Belgium meets with war veterans during a tribute to the unknown soldier on November 11, 2012 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)
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