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"Beetle Bailey" Poster Directs Military Families to Temporary Lodging

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2003 – A poster by award-winning cartoonist Mort Walker, creator of "Beetle Bailey," is helping to send a message to military families that there is a place for them to stay while loved ones are being cared for at military and Veterans Affairs medical facilities.

Walker created the poster for the Fisher House Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides temporary lodging for the families of active-duty service members and veterans facing a medical crisis. The foundation has built 31 temporary lodges, called "comfort homes," on the grounds of military and VA medical centers throughout the United States and two at the Landstuhl (Germany) Regional Medical Center.

For military families, Walker's message is affectionately illustrated. The poster reads: "Don't Worry Where Your Family Will Stay When You're in the Hospital." It shows Otto, a "Beetle Bailey" mutt, peering out of a hospital window, lovingly looking down at Sarge, his owner, who is resting beside Otto's doghouse.

"You never know how successful your idea is going to be," Walker said of his artwork from his Connecticut studio. He added that he wanted to create "something that would evoke an emotion," something that he said he hopes will "get the message across."

The poster is formatted for either 11-by-17 or 8-by-11 paper, said James Weiskopf, the foundation's vice president for communications. He said the poster is free to distribute "as long as no changes are made to the artwork or copy."

Larry Vetter, manager of the Fisher House at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, said he plans to put the poster up around the Keesler Medical Center there.

"A lot of people don't know about us (Fisher House). Even a lot of people in the military don't know about us," said Vetter. He said the posters tell military families: "This house is here -- why don't we use it."

Dawn Johnson, manager of the Fisher House at the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., plans to place the larger-sized poster at the medical center, especially at canteens. "And if I have permission, I will put it in our outlying clinics where we draw a lot of patients," she said.

Johnson said she was "thrilled" when she saw the poster, calling it an "incredible gift." Because the Fisher House serves military families, she said using "Beetle Bailey" for the poster was "a wonderful tie-in."

Weiskopf said that Walker's association with the Fisher House Foundation began over a year ago, when he decided to introduce a new character for "Beetle Bailey." The comic strip, which began in 1950, is the third most distributed of all time and is published in over 1,800 newspapers around the world.

Walker set up a contest in his weekly comic strips encouraging readers to submit names for the new character, a quirky soldier with a knack for gadgets and information technology. The name chosen among thousands of entries was "Specialist Chip Gizmo."

Over six days in which the contest appeared in the comic strip, Weiskopf said, more than 84,000 readers submitted names for the new character.

Walker said he had no idea the promotion would succeed as well as it did. "Much of it was done over the Internet and I'm not that much of an Internet person," he explained. "I was just really surprised at how many responses we got."

Walker said he will continue lending his talent to other projects for the Fisher House Foundation. He said he plans to do a comic strip for the Fisher House, and the foundation is hoping that Walker will create the artwork for a get-well card to be placed in the rooms of Fisher House guests.

"If there is anything at all that I can do with my little talent to help out this noble effort, why I'm very happy to do it," Walker said.

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