Cartoons for soldiers, memories for all

By Kelly McCarthy

September 20, 2013 Updated Sep 21, 2013 at 12:56 PM EDT

Nineveh, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A local cartoon artist has built up a unique following. He's given away thousands of free cartoons to soldiers overseas during his four USO tours.

Mason Mastroianni has taken his B.C. Comic strip around the world in print, but now he's hand delivering the characters to soldiers overseas during USO tours.

"From us they get a full drawing," Mastroianni said. "I know it's nice for me because we really get to sit down and interact one-on-one with each soldier when they come up."

He's been to Iraq, Germany, Turkey, Kuwait and most recently Afghanistan.

"This trip was unique for me," Mastroianni said. "I met a young man who had been in and IED explosion, a blast, he and his crew."

What started as a trip about drawing cartoons, ended with a bond that can never be forgotten.

"And he was telling me his story and I remember my reaction," Mastroianni said, "I never had a reaction like that. He began to tear up a little bit and I did, too."

Mastroianni said when he has time to talk with the soldiers, he wants to hear about their experience.

"Never met a soldier that wasn't super excited to explain what it is they're doing," he added, "And I'll work out a gag for them and doing a drawing of B.C. holding a satellite or shooting down a missile or something like that and personalize it for them."

What he did not find overseas were any broken spirits. Mastroianni leaves his B.C. character with soldiers in every country he visits.

"I knew that being overseas, that I would feel a lot of emotion," Mastroianni said, "But for some reason I wasn't really prepared for Afghanistan, I wasn't really prepared for some of the stories I heard there"

Mastroianni took over for his grandfather and B.C. creator Johnny Hart. He said he plans to go on more USO tours in the future.

B.C. Comic strip is in more than 8,000 publications across the country, and even more around the world.