By Meredith Ganzman
Ed Steckley entertains troops all over the world with the USO. But he doesn’t sing or dance or do stand up. Instead he lifts service members’ spirits with his cartoons. He’s been to Afghanistan, Iraq and several other war zones drawing caricatures of troops since 2009.
"The interaction with the service people is just a lot of back and forth, a lot of talking conversing, giving them a little taste of home, and they get a funny drawing out of it," Steckley says.
Cartoonists have been working with the USO since World War II, delighting military members with their drawings, during what they called “chalk talks.” But for Ed doing what he can for people risking their lives, in the name of freedom, brings just as much joy to him, as it hopefully does for the people he draws.
"It helps me keep my own life in perspective. If I have a slow work month or work week, I always know that I’m safe. And I’m very lucky to be doing what I’m doing."
When he’s not overseas, the Queens artist contributes to “Mad” magazine and also visits military hospitals to create cartoons for patients and vets.
"And being able to bring joy to the people who are defending our freedom really means a lot to me, personally, and I know it means a lot to all of the cartoonists who do this."