Goodbye to Beetle Bailey

The South Bend Tribune recently replaced my favorite cartoon strip, “Beetle Bailey,” with something less relevant, “Zits.”  I don’t know anything about the strip, “Zits.”  I will, however, miss “Beetle Bailey” very much because I encountered characters in my 24 years in the Army that matched characters in the strip.  I’ve known profane noncommissioned officers like SGT Snorkle who could melt the paint off a jeep with their language.  None of them ever beat up an enlisted soldier (to my knowledge), but they didn’t need to—their verbal assaults caused most privates to wilt in place.

Unfortunately, I met some Beetles before the draft was eliminated.  After the draft was eliminated, fewer came into the Army and most didn’t last their first enlistment.  Also, I knew a Lieutenant Fuzz or two.  They lasted about as long as the real Beetles lasted.  One real lieutenant was injured by a dud grenade while training in the field.  He told the AR 15-6 officer that he saw what looked like a grenade so he kicked it.  Apparently, he was surprised that it exploded.  Luckily, he was only slightly injured.

The only character from “Beetle Bailey” that was missing in my real army was General Halftrack.  I’ve never encountered more effective and hard-working individuals in my life than general officers.  A few generals had a “Miss Buxley” as a secretary, but that’s all I ever knew.  Most of my generals worked so hard that I would find it hard to believe they had the time or the energy to do anything inappropriate. General Halftrack was harmless; real generals such as General Petraeus were not so harmless.  Other generals also apparently did have the time and energy to chase women.

I’m unsure how Mort Walker would have depicted some new developments in the Army like women fully integrated into the Army, homosexual soldiers, and transsexual soldiers.  Mort Walker was fixed in the “Brown Shoes” army of the 1950s.  During the 1950s, the Army enjoyed mostly a peacetime garrison life except for Korea.  Then came Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, two wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and lastly Syria.  Unlike the soldiers at Camp Swampy, today’s soldier spends much of his or her career deployed overseas and fighting in hostile-fire zones.  It’s not as funny as Mort Walker’s army, but I feel safer.

Michael Waldron

Niles

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