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Bruce Higdon and his talented art students at USO Fort Campbell. (Photo: Kelli Pendelton / USO)
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Cartoonist Bruce Higdon Draws Military Kids to His USO Fort Campbell Classes

Monday, August 27, 2012

By Chistian Pelusi 

The National Cartoonist Society has been an active USO partner for many years, gathering artists from around the country to lift the spirits of troops and their families and few are more dedicated to this effort than Bruce Higdon.

An Army veteran who founded his studio 40 years ago, Higdon has used his gifts to not only entertain through his syndicated work but also to teach, giving instruction and guidance with appearances on USO tours, hospital visits and military posts.

Living close to Fort Campbell, Ky., in nearby Murfreesboro, Tenn., Higdon had been campaigning for the construction of a USO center for years while on the National Cartoonist Society’s USO tours.

“I used to put bugs in various USO staff that Fort Campbell needed a center,” Higdon said. “I had mentioned the almost constant deployments, the personal and family difficulties our 101st [Airborne Division] folks were having upon return and thought they really could use a center for them to come and unwind.

“I was overjoyed with the announcement, finally, that one would be opening. I quickly got hold of Dennis Bracher, the programs director at that time and offered my services in whatever way he felt that I could pitch in.”

What resulted was a monthly cartoon class which began when the USO Fort Campbell opened last November. The original concept was to conduct the classes for the troops, but the two men quickly steered it toward the youngsters.

“Children go through a lot of things that we, sometimes, don't think about,” said Higdon, a retired Army lieutenant colonel. “I can remember how deployment during Desert Storm affected my family, especially my 14-year-old daughter and three-year-old son. The classes have become something that both the students and I look forward to each month. It also gives me an opportunity to work a couple shifts as a volunteer and meet their families, while interacting with other military visitors to the center.”

Now the monthly class has a waiting list as Higdon and the center keep the class at a manageable size of about 20 kids aged 9-12. That way, everyone can enjoy some individualized attention.

“They come back, month after month,” said Higdon, who changes the theme each month to keep it fresh for the kids. “New ones fit in quite well and the repeating students continue to work their little fingers away, drawing silly people, animals and things.

“Who knows? The next Garry Trudeau or Walt Disney might just be doodling away!”

And the kids aren’t the only ones enjoying the benefit of Higdon’s generosity.

“Parents love the class as much as the kids,” said USO Fort Campbell program manager Kelli Pendleton. “They are full of gratitude and appreciation for the USO and Bruce for hosting the class.

“Kids love cartoons and most love to draw so this class is a natural fit. We have tried other kid-friendly events and none come close to being as popular as this one. The kids love it and Bruce’s passion for them shows as he illustrates. It’s a great program for us and we are blessed to have Bruce donate his time.”

* * *

Kelli Pendleton contributed to this story. 

Photo caption: Bruce Higdon and his talented art students at USO Fort Campbell. (Photo: Kelli Pendleton / USO) 

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