There is no way I can talk about veterans making people laugh without talking about Terminal Lance. With over 250,000 Facebook likes, a weekly feature in The Marine Corps Times, and the ability to raise six figures in a Kickstarter campaign in less time than it takes most units to form up for a morning run, Terminal Lance is the comic strip everyone is reading. Well, all the Marines anyway.
Terminal Lance, for those of you non-Marines like myself who might not know, means anyone who leaves the Marine Corps at the rank of Lance Corporal and, therefore, will never have the opportunity for promotion. It was created by former Marine Maximilian Uriarte. Uriarte served four years on Active Duty as an “0351 Assaultman,” including two tours in Iraq. After leaving the Marine Corps, he created “Abe” and “Garcia,” the primary characters in his comic strip, and began using them to illustrate life among the junior enlisted ranks.
It was a former Marine student of mine (Billy, if you’re reading this, I’m talking about you) who introduced me to Terminal Lance. Since I was what Abe and Garcia would likely define as the worst possible military demographic (an officer and Air Force), he warned me the comic strip might, to put it nicely, offend my sensibilities. While more than one edition of the comic is, without a doubt, the epitome of raunchiness (for example: #316 “Dress Blue Alpha Male” – I’ll let you look it up) and will likely appeal to only the intended audience of lowranking grunts, many are broadly relatable to the experience of veterans and servicemembers of all ranks and services and only contain minimally foul language and imagery. (In fact, I’d have to say some of the content pales in comparison to what his fans post in the comment section of the comic’s Facebook page, especially in response to those who dare to critique the comic.)
If you’re going to read the comic, though, I encourage you to read the blog posts that accompany them. As is so often the case with humor, what appears to be simply funny or crude is actually a cover for an intelligent mind. In his posts, Uriarte goes into what’s behind the comic and often offers an accurate and insightful view on the topic of that day’s strip. Since I spent almost two years helping and encouraging veteran students to make the best use possible of their VA education benefits, one example I particularly liked (with the exception of his use of the word “retarded,” which, since I have a handicapped brother, I can’t stand) is his post for #301 “Friends of Benefits,” where he talks about why it’s important to use your GI Bill. (Uriarte earned a BFA in Animation.) He’s also taken on the topics of the civilian-military divide (#264 “Have You Ever Killed Anybody?”), women in combat arms (posted 11/22/13 “Females in the Infantry”), and memorializing a lost Marine (no funnies here, just an honest reflection on the suicide of a fellow Marine he served with entitled “Rest in Peace, Tyler Cone.”)
For someone who said he left the Corps because the life didn’t suit him, Uriarte clearly gets what it’s about, as attested to by his legions of loyal fans. And while the comic strip and accompanying blog can sometimes be vulgar or gross, Uriarte is clearly an intelligent individual who has used his wit and artistic talent to both give a voice to a group of individuals who are too often told, to use one of my favorite military phrases, “Shut up and color,” as well as to make himself successful in his preferred career. (In addition to his webpage and newspaper syndication, he has a graphic novel in the works called “White Donkey.”)
If you think you might want to check out Terminal Lance for yourself, you can find Abe and Garcia on the Terminal Lance webpage, Facebook page, or Twitter account. If you decide you don’t like it, well, I’m pretty sure Uriate doesn’t care (just like I doubt he’s going to care about my opinion!), and you should probably check back here tomorrow to see if I cover something a little more to your liking.
© 2014, Sarah Maples. All rights reserved.