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bobbyhenline3Today we wrap up our 11 Days, 11 Stories series with a story about a very special wounded warrior, Bobby Henline. When you meet him and get to know him, you will never forget him. But not because of the visible scars he carries. You will remember him because of his great spirit and slightly irreverent sense of humor.

If you follow Bobby Henline on Twitter (and you should), it won’t take you long to see the guy is really funny…sometimes in a twisted “gasp” sort of way. Like when he comments how his amputated hand looks an awful lot like the pork loin filet he just bought at the grocery store and hopes he doesn’t “bite the wrong one.”

A veteran of Desert Storm, Bobby re-enlisted in the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and deployed to Iraq three times with the 82nd Airborne Division and 3rd Armored Calvary regiment. He was the lone survivor of a roadside bomb attack in Iraq in 2007. With severe burns, he spent six months fighting for his life and endured dozens of painful surgeries.

But despite the seriousness of the journey he’s traveled, Bobby Henline wants to make you laugh. He pokes fun at himself so the rest of us feel less uncomfortable about his obvious injuries and to prove that it is possible for wounded warriors to heal and do great things.

Recently, Bobby was one of five comedians featured in the movie Comedy Warriors. The movie follows each warrior as they are mentored by nationally known stand-up guys (Bob Saget, Zack Galifianakis, Lewis Black, and others). It is full of heart-warming moments. For example, Bobby’s teenage daughter tearfully wonders why people stare at her Dad’s scars on his face, “He didn’t ask for this.”

After a screening of the movie in San Antonio, Bobby took questions from people in the nearly full theater. Bobby said, “I owe it to the ones who didn’t make it, to do everything I can so they didn’t die in vain. I hope to bring more joy and good from this experience” to outweigh any bad from those who tried to end their lives.

Bobby’s gaining increased national exposure for his comedy and his passion to make a positive difference. Time magazine recently released an inspiring documentary about Bobby. You’ll see why it’s easy to laugh and be inspired by Bobby.

Henline is a familiar face at Operation Homefront. He lives in San Antonio so he joins us for local events when he can. He’s hosted comedy shows to raise money for Operation Homefront. He also served on the Board of Directors for the Texas Field Office (now called Southern Plains). In addition, his daughter Brittany was selected as Operation Homefront’s very first Military Child of the Year Award winner for her maturity and the example she sets in supporting the military. (Photo credit – posted on Bobby Henline’s Twitter page.)

Join in the conversation with us as we celebrate those veterans among us, by sharing stories of your own. Through Facebook or Twitter, please use the hashtag #11days11stories to share your own inspirational story of a veteran in your life.

 

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kids at play

Steve, Rob and Bobby get some moments to goof off during promotions for Comedy Warriors.

Bobby Henline, Rob Jones, Joe Kashnow, Steve Rice and Darisse Smith share at least two things in common. They are funny…really funny… and they are wounded warriors. And now they are officially stars of a movie that follows their path to become headliners of their own stand-up comedy show.

I got to see the new documentary, called Comedy Warriors, this weekend at a local movie theater as part of the San Antonio Film Festival. The movie follows these five vets as they are mentored by some of comedy’s greatest – Zach Galifianakis, Bob Saget, Lewis Black, DJ Novak, and others. Other than Bobby, they have no experience working a room for laughs but they share the belief that humor helps them heal. I know it’s cliché but I laughed and I cried. Mostly laughed … a lot.

Joe Kashnow, who lost his leg from an IED explosion, said he used humor to handle the amputation. When doctors came for the consultation, he told them, “If you must take my leg, I have two requests. One – I want you to give me my leg back so I can give it a proper burial in keeping with my Orthodox Jewish tradition. Two – I insist that my prosthetic leg have a secret door that can hold cookies.” He said psychiatrists visited the next day to see what was wrong with him. In his stand-up routine, he jokes that his leg is buried next to a tombstone that reads, “More to come.”

But humor doesn’t automatically make life easy. Kashnow endures intense daily pain and was suicidal at one point. He asked himself “I suffer every day. What is there that is worth sticking around for?” His answer: His son … and all the moments he might miss if he left this life. And now, stand-up comedy gives him an outlet, and distraction, to deal with the pain. After his debut show in Los Angeles, Joe came off stage and said, “That was awesome. I’m still aware of the pain in my leg but for this moment, it’s not as bad.”

Follow Comedy Warriors on Facebook to show progress.

This movie is a must-see.

comedy-warriors

Me and Bobby Henline after the screening. It wasn’t my first time to meet Bobby…and he really is hilarious, on stage and off.

The movie follows each warrior as they go through the mentoring process, to their debut on stage and after. It is full of heart-warming moments. For example, Bobby’s teenage daughter tearfully wonders why people stare at her Dad’s scars on his face, “He didn’t ask for this.” Bobby and his daughter were at the screening the day I attended and she joked that she still had more Twitter followers than he did. Help Bobby out and follow him on Twitter.

And there are moments that make you cringe. “I told my wife that if I didn’t come back from Iraq in one piece, that she should go on without me. Thankfully she and her new husband rent me space in the garage.” This piece of fiction (Thank God!) was part of Bobby’s routine, who is still happily married to his wife.

This movie helps bridge the gap between civilians and military. Between the able-bodied and the disabled body. Between those who suffer and those who will. And it does it all with laughter.

After the screening, Bobby Henline took questions from people in the nearly full theater. I asked, “How can we help you promote this movie so more people see it?” He said, “Follow Comedy Warriors on Facebook and Twitter and, if you can, donate money so we can purchase entry into more movie festivals.” The film won Audience Choice for the Best Documentary at the San Antonio Film Festival. A much-deserved award. And I wish them many eyes to see this incredible story in the future.

Bobby, who has served on the board of our Texas Field Office, said he was the only one who survived the explosion that hit the Humvee he was riding in. “I owe it to the ones who didn’t make it, to do everything I can so they didn’t die in vain. I hope to bring more joy and good from this experience” to outweigh any bad from those who tried to kill.

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