Sunday, January 15, 2006


Pentagon: Laugh, clowns, laugh!

Sometimes, it’s as if we live in a very awful comedy on TV, some Saturday Night Live sketch about the inanity of modern life. The Pentagon appears to be writing the script and is working on the laugh track. We should all laugh more: particularly the families of those in the military. IEDs for a giggle, white phosphorous for a good belly laugh. I suspected for some time that Don Rumsfeld has slipped a couple of cogs; this scam—excuse me, plan, indicates that he’s way around the bend.

Anyone remember the old "Fixin' To Die Rag" by Country Joe and The Fish? —"be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in a box..." Ha-ha-hah?


Pentagon to families: Go ahead, laugh
By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY

When the stress of the war in Iraq becomes too severe, the Pentagon has a suggestion for military families: Learn how to laugh.

With help from the Pentagon's chief laughter instructor, families of National Guard members are learning to walk like a penguin, laugh like a lion and blurt "ha, ha, hee, hee and ho, ho."

No joke.

"I laugh every chance I get," says the instructor, retired Army colonel James "Scotty" Scott. "That's why I'm blessed to be at the Pentagon, where we definitely need a lot of laughter in our lives."

Scott, 57, is certified as a laughter training specialist by the Ohio-based World Laughter Tour, a group that promotes mirth as medicine. It touts scientific research that suggests chuckling can boost the body's immune system and decrease stress hormones.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, says the Pentagon is committed to the program and values Scott's skills. "We sent him to the training," she says.

The laughter program was Scott's idea. It costs the military virtually nothing, because Scott already travels to states as a director of military family support policy.
Ways military families are being taught to laugh:

Penguin exercise: Waddle and flap hands as though they're fins.

Lion laugh: Open eyes and mouth wide while repeating "ha ha's."

Repeat "ho, ho, ha, ha, ha," while clapping on each sound.

He has taught National Guard family group leaders in Alaska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Idaho, and will do so in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, he says. Another laughter trainer is working with folks in North Carolina.

"We believe our program prevents hardening of the attitudes," says Scott, in one of his wordplay aphorisms that beg for a rimshot. The founder and chief executive of the World Laughter Tour is psychologist Steve Wilson, who calls himself "Cheerman of the Bored."

"The guiding principle is to laugh for no reason. And that's one of the reasons it works so well for military families," Scott says. "There's a lot they have to be stressed over, a lot of worries, a lot of concerns."

As foolish as students might feel, Scott says he's lost only one participant: a Marine sergeant major who, Scott says, fled the room with a bad case of the giggles.

Mary Frances Booth, the wife of a retired soldier, took the class last year and is an ardent devotee.

She and her two daughters — Meaghan, 10 and Sarah, 8 — were sobbing after Booth dropped her husband at the Boise airport Sunday; he was headed for Afghanistan for work as a civilian contractor, she says. Then Booth called for one of the laughing drills.

"They rolled their eyes at me and thought, 'Mom's on her laughing thing again,' " Booth says. "(But) it made it a little bit better."

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