Raging Pencils
The cartilaginous web comic, by Mike Stanfill
New comics every Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

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The VA Buffet.

Up, Up, Way Up and Away.

When I was a kid I was a total war zany. All I wanted was more toy guns, toy weapons and toy soldiers. My collection was not complete without the latest in simulated military accoutremont. I'm sure I was a complete nuisance but it made me very easy to shop for at Xmas-time and on birthdays.

I was even shameless enough to desire a GI Joe back when they were first offered for sale. It stood a full twelve inches tall and you could have probably killed someone if you whacked them hard enough with it. Unfortuntely for me I was ahead of the demographic curve as boys in the early 60s didn't have 'dolls'. That honor went to my younger brother many years later. Curse him.

As I got older my sphere of aggression expanded into the arts and crafts as I became addicted to assembling and painting plastic model aircraft. Maybe it was the smell of the glue that piqued my interest, the kind Testors sold that could give you a good, serious buzz after building one of the more intricate designs, like a Lancaster or a B-17.

More likely it was simply my first experience with obsessive-compulsive behavior as a consumer, the Pokemon of its time, but whatever the reason there was almost nothing I wouldn't do to get my hands on that next 50 cents in order to feed my habit of the finest from the house of Revell, Aurora, and Monogram. When I got desperate enough I'd even buy something from Lindberg, but I wasn't proud of myself afterwards.

Don't get your panties in a twist. I'm only talking about simple larceny, okay? Mother's purse was oftentimes mysteriously light on weekends but as there were eight children in the house it was tough to pinpoint the villain. Which shows you either how dumb I was or how tolerant my mother was as the fully aircraft-adorned walls and ceilings of my bedroom were ample evidence of where the butter and egg money went.

Even though the U.S. military had been gripped in the fever of the Jet Age for almost a full decade before I was born I, as an adolescent, confined my interest to that glorious, propellor-driven epoch between 1939 and 1945. For my refined tastes jet engines were simply too clean, too sanitary, too whiney. Give me something that reciprocated, something that offered the excitement of failure in a tight turn, something that was actually in danger of flying apart in a high-speed dive, something that considered mach one as a dream on the knife's edge of illusion.

As I built these models, as I held them in my hands and imagined facing the ever-present threat of death hiding in the sun, I knew someday when I was old enough I'd join the air force and fly. No question. Even though I was small, bone-thin, asthmatic, and probably had a pierced eardrum, I still dreamed.

By the early 70s I was about to graduate from high school and suddenly young people weren't so patriotic as earlier generations. America was embroiled in a bad war and we all knew it. The U.S. military, particularly the army, had become a joke as the draft had recently ended and they were so desperate for warm bodies they took anyone they could get, including my school friends who liked menial labor even less than homework. So they all enlisted. From what I saw, the military had become a safety net for drop-outs.

So I didn't join the military and I didn't fly, which is just as well. As a civilian I didn't have to bear the shame of Reagan's happy mini-empiric escapades. As a civilian I could shake my head in wonder at the sheer lunacy of Oil War One. As a civilian I was allowed to actively protest George W's failed attempt to appear strong in the face of the wrong enemy.

War has, for me, lost its glamour over the decades. As I see it, it's become like those model planes I used to build... nothing more than a hollow ideal wrapped in plastic and marketed to the gullible.


Most Americans aren't aware that over 4000 U.S. troops have been killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. That's a pretty sad thing to have to report but the actual number of casualities is much greater than that because if the military can manage to medivac your body out of the country to, say, Germany before it expires then that's not officially counted as a battlefield death. You just happened to die in transit, and no one's exactly sure how many that is because the military isn't saying.

I suppose it's really none of our business.

Then there's the wounded. The men and women coming home minus one or more limbs. Much of the damage comes from roadside bombs as many of our soldiers have been assigned inadequate body armor, vehicle armor, or defective helmets that ring a soldier's cerebral cortex like an explosive gong when struck by sudden trauma. The 'official' number of wounded is now over 30,000 casualities as I write this but that doesn't include the walking time bombs suffused with PTSD.

Yeah, good old post traumatic stress disorder. Official estimates place the number suffering this plague at over 60,000. For perspective, imagine Yankee Stadium completely filled with humans trained to kill and a little unsure where reality ends and catecholamine levels begin.

Batter up.


Raging Pencils is a massive conceit courtesy of:

Mike Stanfill, Private Hand
Illustration • Animation • Web Design


Sharks: I'm telling you, Frankie, I must have lost at least
twenty pounds since that VA center moved next to the beach.