Showing 240 posts tagged IED

Healing through humor.
(Article by Pablo Villa, NCO Journal, 26 AUG 2014. Source, via OEW on Facebook.)
There’s something striking about Bobby Henline.
No, it’s not the roughly depilated head or the craggy striations seared into the former staff sergeant’s face, the result of a 2007 roadside bomb attack in Iraq that struck the humvee he was riding in. Henline was the only one of the vehicle’s five occupants to survive the blast. More than 38 percent of his body was burned. His head was scorched to the skull. His left hand was so badly singed it would eventually be amputated. Despite 46 surgeries and six months of rehabilitation, Henline’s likeness was permanently altered.
But that’s not what sticks out about him.
What is most palpable about Henline, a San Jose, Calif., native, is his affable demeanor. He speaks with a quick hop-step cadence, punctuated often with a hearty laugh. The rhythm crescendos when he talks about his family, his fellow Soldiers, his friends or the thing that he says has helped him keep going after suffering such a harrowing ordeal — humor.
Today, Henline is a stand-up comedian. In fact, he is one of the industry’s budding talents, having performed in some of comedy’s meccas such as The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, and appearing in the Showtime documentary, “Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor.”
Henline says he turned to comedy as a coping mechanism — his days vocally directing Soldiers as an NCO helped him summon the courage to take the stage for the first time. It ended up renewing his zeal for life. And he hopes sharing his story can help other injured — and sometimes disfigured — Soldiers face their lives with the same exuberance.
“I didn’t think I’d get a job out of it,” said Henline before a Fourth of July performance at the Joke Joint Comedy Showcase in Houston. “It was fun for me. It was a release. It’s always how I like to deal with stuff, with my humor. So it was good for me. It was just a fun thing to do. And it just started building up and building up. Next thing you know, it’s serious. Comedy got serious.”
‘That’s all I remember that day’
Henline has only a couple vivid memories of the day his life changed.
It was April 7, 2007, and Henline was part of a convoy that was making stops at various forward operating bases, or FOBs, delivering supplies and transporting Soldiers north of Baghdad, Iraq. He was a part of the 82nd Airborne Division and was weeks into his fourth deployment.
“We were doing the typical, ‘Get the convoy ready,’ that morning,” he said. “There are two things I remember from that day. One was that there were two Soldiers in the vehicle who normally didn’t ride with me. I also remember getting a second cup of coffee. The S-4 captain, who was sitting behind me, he wasn’t there yet. So we were sitting around waiting, and I ran and grabbed another cup of coffee while we were waiting on him.
“That’s all I remember that day.”
Henline’s vehicle was at the front of the convoy traveling near the Diyala province village of Zaganiyah when an improvised explosive device detonated underneath it. The blast hurled the humvee nearly 50 feet down the road. Four Soldiers — Capt. Jonathan Grassbaugh, Spc. Ebe Emolo, Spc. Levi Hoover and Pfc. Rodney McCandless — were killed instantly. When fellow Soldiers reached the vehicle, they had to smother the flames burning Henline’s upper body and dig the broken teeth out of his mouth to allow him to breathe.
Humor amid hardship
Two weeks later, Henline emerged from a medically induced coma at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, thus beginning a medical odyssey that would provide many painful moments, both physically and emotionally.
But one thing came easy to him — humor.
“I started joking around, even in intensive care, in the first month,” Henline said. “A lot of that I don’t remember. But I do remember one day they were walking me and I was mad because they wouldn’t give me water. And I wanted water. So I was walking around the nurses’ desk and I told them, ‘When I get out of here, we’re having a water party. Squirt guns, balloons. No alcohol allowed. Just water.’ I think that was the first time I really started joking around with people.”
Henline says laughter helped keep spirits high for him and the medical personnel working with him. It also helped his wife, Connie, and the rest of his family cope with their loved one’s ordeal and changed appearance.
“Joking around at the hospital, that was my way of using my sense of humor to let my family know I was OK, to let staff know I was OK,” he said. “It was how [I chose] to deal with the pain during physical therapy, laughing about it, joking with the other patients. I could see my family worrying. My mom couldn’t even get me a drink. She was shaking just trying to put the straw to my mouth, real scared. So it was kind of like, ‘Don’t worry, I’m still here. Even if today I’m kind of groggy.’ I’d still make a little joke to let them know, ‘It’s OK. I’m inside here. I just can’t move right now.’
“I think when I was talking a lot better and able to sit up and stuff, that’s when they were finally like, ‘OK, he’s still in there. He’s back. He’s still being that goofball.’”
From surgery to the stage
Henline spent almost the next two years working to regain a sense of normalcy.
His face was scarred by the burns he suffered and puffed by various skin-graft surgeries. His left ear was gone; his right was reduced to a rough-hewn stub. His smashed left hand eventually became too painful to bear, and he asked doctors to amputate it. After removing the protective goggles he was forced to wear for a year, it took time to get accustomed to the stares.
While jokes helped, Henline couldn’t shake the notion that he needed to heed a call. He just didn’t know what it was. Then his occupational therapist made a “stupid” suggestion.
“One day she told me, ‘You should try stand-up comedy!’” Henline said. “She has this really high-pitched voice, one of those happy people all the time. ‘You’ve gotta try stand-up comedy. You’ve gotta try it!’ I’m like ‘That’s stupid. It’s not gonna work. This, here at the hospital, is funny. We could joke about it here.’ I wasn’t gonna go up on stage and people are gonna go, ‘Oh, you got blown up in Iraq? That’s funny.’”
Henline said he grew up admiring comedians such as George Carlin, Robin Williams and Bill Cosby. But he never considered actually taking a stage. However, after a steady stream of good-natured pestering from his therapist, he obliged, sealing the deal with a pinkie swear.
“My occupational therapist’s sister lives in L.A., and she’s in a band,” Henline said. “So one day, I’m going out there for a consultation to see a doctor. She tells me, ‘My sister’s in entertainment. She might know a place you could try it while you’re out there.’ Sure enough, her sister calls me and says, ‘Hey. Comedy Store. Go sign up at 5 o’clock.’”
Henline’s very first set took place August 2009 at the famed Los Angeles club on the same stage graced by some of comedy’s biggest names.
“It went horrible,” Henline remembers. “My joke I still do today about being a rare birth defect was the first joke I really wrote. No one laughed. But I tag it with, ‘And now my mom thinks she has the right to complain to me about her acid reflux.’ I didn’t think that was the joke. I thought the joke that my mom was in the circus as a fire-eater was the funny part. But they related to the acid reflux better. So I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really the punch line.’ When I got off stage, another comic said to me, ‘I really liked the part about the acid reflux.’ That gave me a little hint, like ‘OK, maybe I can write a joke.’”
And so, Henline returned to San Antonio, where he still resides to be near the medical facilities he frequents, and began performing open-mic sets three nights a week.
A year-and-a-half later, he was in Los Angeles when a chance meeting with a talent agent landed him an appearance in the Showtime documentary. The film, released in April 2013, follows Henline and four other veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan as they work with comedy A-listers to explore their experiences through the healing power of humor.
Heeding the call
Henline’s brush with some of comedy’s biggest names did well to instill confidence in his work. But it was feedback from fellow wounded veterans that made him realize his newfound profession was something more than a personal outlet.
“Some of the best feedback I’ve heard comes from guys who are out of the military now,” Henline said. “Two guys — burn survivors, [who] I visited in the hospital a long time ago — have said that what I do helps them. It helps them out in public. They both live in the San Antonio area. They both have been called ‘Bobby Henline’ in public — us burnt guys all look alike. They told me not to feel bad when people call me J.R. Martinez (another famed U.S. Army veteran and burn survivor), because they get the same thing, only they’re called Bobby Henline, the comedian. But they said it really helps them. It’s always breaking the ice for people to feel more comfortable coming up and talking to them. They said they like that.
“Once I started seeing that it could make a difference in people’s lives by going on stage and making people laugh about this, it makes it easier for them, too, to approach somebody else when they see someone with a disfigurement. To know that, hey, we want to talk. We’re not dead. We’re the same person. We like to have dinner, have a drink, go to a movie. We have personalities. We’re not all angry about what happened to us. It’s OK to ask.”
Henline has not limited himself to comedy for his outreach efforts. He conducts motivational speaking visits at schools, colleges, companies and churches. He makes himself available to other wounded warriors in San Antonio hospitals and clinics to give them someone to speak with that might better understand their experiences.
Henline also formed the Crosshairs Comedy troupe with other wounded veterans. The group performs at comedy clubs throughout the country, helping each other with their sets as well as with the emotional setbacks caused by their combat experiences.
Henline performed during Fourth of July weekend in Houston with two members of the troupe — Anthony Torino, a U.S. Air Force veteran, and Raul Sanchez, an Army veteran. Both men lauded Henline’s efforts while on stage. Before the show, Torino jokingly lamented nearly receiving credit for one of Henline’s signature jokes.
“We’ve done a lot of shows together, and I used to sit in the back of the audience,” Torino said. “I used to work with people who were burnt [when I was] a therapist. I’d watch Bobby’s first sets and I was, like, ‘People aren’t paying attention to him. They’re staring at him.’ And he doesn’t give them a chance to just look. He’s used to it; I’m used to it. But the rest of the crowd is like, ‘Holy heck.’ And so I was, like, give them time to go, ‘Holy heck.’ And I was like, ‘What could he say? — You should see the other guy!’ Because he was in a fight, you know what I mean? And the first time he did it, it went great. Turned out to be perfect.”
But Henline didn’t deliver that opening line until he received the same advice from comedian Brad Garrett, a fact Torino dismisses.
“He wouldn’t listen to me,” Torino said. “But Brad Garrett tells him to do it, and …
“Seriously, Bobby is funny. And all the good things he does for us and other people are just awesome.”
NCO lessons shine through
Henline earned his sergeant stripes in 2004, just before joining the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He says his days as an NCO continue to reverberate throughout his life, both personally and professionally.
“Definitely, being a Soldier helped a lot of things,” Henline said. “Especially becoming an NCO — you’re used to talking to the crowds and giving classes and things like that. Also, being burnt meant wherever I went, I got stared at. It didn’t matter. So I figure if I went up on stage and I stood there and people stared at me, it’d be just like me going to Walmart. There wouldn’t be anything different. The attitude of pulling through and making sure you’re OK and all the training definitely comes into being strong.”
Henline also says he enjoyed his days leading other Soldiers. He credits his time with younger Soldiers as the reason he can enjoy the camaraderie of his fellow troupe comics. They are lessons he feels today’s NCOs can continue to employ.
“Leadership style? I’m definitely a participator,” Henline said. “I delegate if there’s enough people around. But if not, I’m gonna get in there. You don’t want to lose a skill by just sitting there giving orders and demands and make everyone else do it, and then you forget how to do it yourself. I was maybe too soft sometimes when I needed to be a little meaner. But I’d rather talk to them and try to coach them that way. I wanted to learn about the individual, who they are. Because they’re just like your children. You know, ‘Which one handles being yelled at better? Which one learns better being talked to?’ So as you get to know your Soldiers better, you can’t just treat them all exactly the same. Because they’re all different personalities and they respond differently. That goes for leadership in the military, raising kids, teachers in schools. In every type of leadership, you need to know what makes the best team. That’s how you make your team work well together.”
There’s one more thing that drives Henline and keeps him feverishly on the trail of his comedic dreams.
“It’s that same old thing, you’ve gotta drive on,” Henline said. “Survivor’s guilt was really bad for me in the beginning. But you’ve gotta live on for those who don’t live anymore, the guys who sacrificed it all. There were four other guys in that humvee who didn’t make it. I sat on the couch, and I felt sorry for myself. I gave up. But what’s that doing for them? I gotta live on for them. Any of them would trade places with me. They’d rather be in pain and look funny and be here. Their families would rather have them back. That’s a big push for me that helps drive me on.”

Henline highlights: A selection of Bobby Henline’s jokes
“I was burned over 38 percent of my body. Yes, I expect a discount at my cremation.”
“I don’t know if you girls know this, but once you go cooked, you’re hooked.”
“I did four tours in Iraq. I loved my job. I had a great time. But seriously, that last tour was a real blast. … My humvee got blown up by a roadside bomb. The crazy thing is that it took me four tours and an IED just to figure out my lucky number was three.”
“I love messing with people. I love going to CVS or Walgreens. I get a hand basket and fill it up full of scar removal. I just want to see the look on the cashier’s face. … I love Fourth of July. I go to the fireworks stands and say, ‘Just give me the same stuff you gave me last year. It was great!’”
“Over the last six years, I’ve had 46 skin-graft surgeries. I don’t know if you know what that is but, basically, they take good skin from one part of your body to replace the burnt skin in another part. Essentially, they make a skin quilt out of you. They took my stomach and put it on top of my head. Now, I gotta pick lint out of my ears. I get a headache when I eat too much. And that’s not even the worst of it — I’m mooning all of you right now.”
“If my comedy career does take off, I’ll be the first comedian ever to show up to his roast pre-cooked. Comedy Central will have to change the name to ‘Serving Leftovers at Bobby Henline’s Reheating Special.’”
High-res

Healing through humor.

(Article by Pablo Villa, NCO Journal, 26 AUG 2014. Source, via OEW on Facebook.)

There’s something striking about Bobby Henline.

No, it’s not the roughly depilated head or the craggy striations seared into the former staff sergeant’s face, the result of a 2007 roadside bomb attack in Iraq that struck the humvee he was riding in. Henline was the only one of the vehicle’s five occupants to survive the blast. More than 38 percent of his body was burned. His head was scorched to the skull. His left hand was so badly singed it would eventually be amputated. Despite 46 surgeries and six months of rehabilitation, Henline’s likeness was permanently altered.

But that’s not what sticks out about him.

What is most palpable about Henline, a San Jose, Calif., native, is his affable demeanor. He speaks with a quick hop-step cadence, punctuated often with a hearty laugh. The rhythm crescendos when he talks about his family, his fellow Soldiers, his friends or the thing that he says has helped him keep going after suffering such a harrowing ordeal — humor.

Today, Henline is a stand-up comedian. In fact, he is one of the industry’s budding talents, having performed in some of comedy’s meccas such as The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, and appearing in the Showtime documentary, “Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor.”

Henline says he turned to comedy as a coping mechanism — his days vocally directing Soldiers as an NCO helped him summon the courage to take the stage for the first time. It ended up renewing his zeal for life. And he hopes sharing his story can help other injured — and sometimes disfigured — Soldiers face their lives with the same exuberance.

“I didn’t think I’d get a job out of it,” said Henline before a Fourth of July performance at the Joke Joint Comedy Showcase in Houston. “It was fun for me. It was a release. It’s always how I like to deal with stuff, with my humor. So it was good for me. It was just a fun thing to do. And it just started building up and building up. Next thing you know, it’s serious. Comedy got serious.”

‘That’s all I remember that day’

Henline has only a couple vivid memories of the day his life changed.

It was April 7, 2007, and Henline was part of a convoy that was making stops at various forward operating bases, or FOBs, delivering supplies and transporting Soldiers north of Baghdad, Iraq. He was a part of the 82nd Airborne Division and was weeks into his fourth deployment.

“We were doing the typical, ‘Get the convoy ready,’ that morning,” he said. “There are two things I remember from that day. One was that there were two Soldiers in the vehicle who normally didn’t ride with me. I also remember getting a second cup of coffee. The S-4 captain, who was sitting behind me, he wasn’t there yet. So we were sitting around waiting, and I ran and grabbed another cup of coffee while we were waiting on him.

“That’s all I remember that day.”

Henline’s vehicle was at the front of the convoy traveling near the Diyala province village of Zaganiyah when an improvised explosive device detonated underneath it. The blast hurled the humvee nearly 50 feet down the road. Four Soldiers — Capt. Jonathan Grassbaugh, Spc. Ebe Emolo, Spc. Levi Hoover and Pfc. Rodney McCandless — were killed instantly. When fellow Soldiers reached the vehicle, they had to smother the flames burning Henline’s upper body and dig the broken teeth out of his mouth to allow him to breathe.

Humor amid hardship

Two weeks later, Henline emerged from a medically induced coma at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, thus beginning a medical odyssey that would provide many painful moments, both physically and emotionally.

But one thing came easy to him — humor.

“I started joking around, even in intensive care, in the first month,” Henline said. “A lot of that I don’t remember. But I do remember one day they were walking me and I was mad because they wouldn’t give me water. And I wanted water. So I was walking around the nurses’ desk and I told them, ‘When I get out of here, we’re having a water party. Squirt guns, balloons. No alcohol allowed. Just water.’ I think that was the first time I really started joking around with people.”

Henline says laughter helped keep spirits high for him and the medical personnel working with him. It also helped his wife, Connie, and the rest of his family cope with their loved one’s ordeal and changed appearance.

“Joking around at the hospital, that was my way of using my sense of humor to let my family know I was OK, to let staff know I was OK,” he said. “It was how [I chose] to deal with the pain during physical therapy, laughing about it, joking with the other patients. I could see my family worrying. My mom couldn’t even get me a drink. She was shaking just trying to put the straw to my mouth, real scared. So it was kind of like, ‘Don’t worry, I’m still here. Even if today I’m kind of groggy.’ I’d still make a little joke to let them know, ‘It’s OK. I’m inside here. I just can’t move right now.’

“I think when I was talking a lot better and able to sit up and stuff, that’s when they were finally like, ‘OK, he’s still in there. He’s back. He’s still being that goofball.’”

From surgery to the stage

Henline spent almost the next two years working to regain a sense of normalcy.

His face was scarred by the burns he suffered and puffed by various skin-graft surgeries. His left ear was gone; his right was reduced to a rough-hewn stub. His smashed left hand eventually became too painful to bear, and he asked doctors to amputate it. After removing the protective goggles he was forced to wear for a year, it took time to get accustomed to the stares.

While jokes helped, Henline couldn’t shake the notion that he needed to heed a call. He just didn’t know what it was. Then his occupational therapist made a “stupid” suggestion.

“One day she told me, ‘You should try stand-up comedy!’” Henline said. “She has this really high-pitched voice, one of those happy people all the time. ‘You’ve gotta try stand-up comedy. You’ve gotta try it!’ I’m like ‘That’s stupid. It’s not gonna work. This, here at the hospital, is funny. We could joke about it here.’ I wasn’t gonna go up on stage and people are gonna go, ‘Oh, you got blown up in Iraq? That’s funny.’”

Henline said he grew up admiring comedians such as George Carlin, Robin Williams and Bill Cosby. But he never considered actually taking a stage. However, after a steady stream of good-natured pestering from his therapist, he obliged, sealing the deal with a pinkie swear.

“My occupational therapist’s sister lives in L.A., and she’s in a band,” Henline said. “So one day, I’m going out there for a consultation to see a doctor. She tells me, ‘My sister’s in entertainment. She might know a place you could try it while you’re out there.’ Sure enough, her sister calls me and says, ‘Hey. Comedy Store. Go sign up at 5 o’clock.’”

Henline’s very first set took place August 2009 at the famed Los Angeles club on the same stage graced by some of comedy’s biggest names.

“It went horrible,” Henline remembers. “My joke I still do today about being a rare birth defect was the first joke I really wrote. No one laughed. But I tag it with, ‘And now my mom thinks she has the right to complain to me about her acid reflux.’ I didn’t think that was the joke. I thought the joke that my mom was in the circus as a fire-eater was the funny part. But they related to the acid reflux better. So I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really the punch line.’ When I got off stage, another comic said to me, ‘I really liked the part about the acid reflux.’ That gave me a little hint, like ‘OK, maybe I can write a joke.’”

And so, Henline returned to San Antonio, where he still resides to be near the medical facilities he frequents, and began performing open-mic sets three nights a week.

A year-and-a-half later, he was in Los Angeles when a chance meeting with a talent agent landed him an appearance in the Showtime documentary. The film, released in April 2013, follows Henline and four other veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan as they work with comedy A-listers to explore their experiences through the healing power of humor.

Heeding the call

Henline’s brush with some of comedy’s biggest names did well to instill confidence in his work. But it was feedback from fellow wounded veterans that made him realize his newfound profession was something more than a personal outlet.

“Some of the best feedback I’ve heard comes from guys who are out of the military now,” Henline said. “Two guys — burn survivors, [who] I visited in the hospital a long time ago — have said that what I do helps them. It helps them out in public. They both live in the San Antonio area. They both have been called ‘Bobby Henline’ in public — us burnt guys all look alike. They told me not to feel bad when people call me J.R. Martinez (another famed U.S. Army veteran and burn survivor), because they get the same thing, only they’re called Bobby Henline, the comedian. But they said it really helps them. It’s always breaking the ice for people to feel more comfortable coming up and talking to them. They said they like that.

“Once I started seeing that it could make a difference in people’s lives by going on stage and making people laugh about this, it makes it easier for them, too, to approach somebody else when they see someone with a disfigurement. To know that, hey, we want to talk. We’re not dead. We’re the same person. We like to have dinner, have a drink, go to a movie. We have personalities. We’re not all angry about what happened to us. It’s OK to ask.”

Henline has not limited himself to comedy for his outreach efforts. He conducts motivational speaking visits at schools, colleges, companies and churches. He makes himself available to other wounded warriors in San Antonio hospitals and clinics to give them someone to speak with that might better understand their experiences.

Henline also formed the Crosshairs Comedy troupe with other wounded veterans. The group performs at comedy clubs throughout the country, helping each other with their sets as well as with the emotional setbacks caused by their combat experiences.

Henline performed during Fourth of July weekend in Houston with two members of the troupe — Anthony Torino, a U.S. Air Force veteran, and Raul Sanchez, an Army veteran. Both men lauded Henline’s efforts while on stage. Before the show, Torino jokingly lamented nearly receiving credit for one of Henline’s signature jokes.

“We’ve done a lot of shows together, and I used to sit in the back of the audience,” Torino said. “I used to work with people who were burnt [when I was] a therapist. I’d watch Bobby’s first sets and I was, like, ‘People aren’t paying attention to him. They’re staring at him.’ And he doesn’t give them a chance to just look. He’s used to it; I’m used to it. But the rest of the crowd is like, ‘Holy heck.’ And so I was, like, give them time to go, ‘Holy heck.’ And I was like, ‘What could he say? — You should see the other guy!’ Because he was in a fight, you know what I mean? And the first time he did it, it went great. Turned out to be perfect.”

But Henline didn’t deliver that opening line until he received the same advice from comedian Brad Garrett, a fact Torino dismisses.

“He wouldn’t listen to me,” Torino said. “But Brad Garrett tells him to do it, and …

“Seriously, Bobby is funny. And all the good things he does for us and other people are just awesome.”

NCO lessons shine through

Henline earned his sergeant stripes in 2004, just before joining the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He says his days as an NCO continue to reverberate throughout his life, both personally and professionally.

“Definitely, being a Soldier helped a lot of things,” Henline said. “Especially becoming an NCO — you’re used to talking to the crowds and giving classes and things like that. Also, being burnt meant wherever I went, I got stared at. It didn’t matter. So I figure if I went up on stage and I stood there and people stared at me, it’d be just like me going to Walmart. There wouldn’t be anything different. The attitude of pulling through and making sure you’re OK and all the training definitely comes into being strong.”

Henline also says he enjoyed his days leading other Soldiers. He credits his time with younger Soldiers as the reason he can enjoy the camaraderie of his fellow troupe comics. They are lessons he feels today’s NCOs can continue to employ.

“Leadership style? I’m definitely a participator,” Henline said. “I delegate if there’s enough people around. But if not, I’m gonna get in there. You don’t want to lose a skill by just sitting there giving orders and demands and make everyone else do it, and then you forget how to do it yourself. I was maybe too soft sometimes when I needed to be a little meaner. But I’d rather talk to them and try to coach them that way. I wanted to learn about the individual, who they are. Because they’re just like your children. You know, ‘Which one handles being yelled at better? Which one learns better being talked to?’ So as you get to know your Soldiers better, you can’t just treat them all exactly the same. Because they’re all different personalities and they respond differently. That goes for leadership in the military, raising kids, teachers in schools. In every type of leadership, you need to know what makes the best team. That’s how you make your team work well together.”

There’s one more thing that drives Henline and keeps him feverishly on the trail of his comedic dreams.

“It’s that same old thing, you’ve gotta drive on,” Henline said. “Survivor’s guilt was really bad for me in the beginning. But you’ve gotta live on for those who don’t live anymore, the guys who sacrificed it all. There were four other guys in that humvee who didn’t make it. I sat on the couch, and I felt sorry for myself. I gave up. But what’s that doing for them? I gotta live on for them. Any of them would trade places with me. They’d rather be in pain and look funny and be here. Their families would rather have them back. That’s a big push for me that helps drive me on.”

Henline highlights: A selection of Bobby Henline’s jokes

  • “I was burned over 38 percent of my body. Yes, I expect a discount at my cremation.”
  • “I don’t know if you girls know this, but once you go cooked, you’re hooked.”
  • “I did four tours in Iraq. I loved my job. I had a great time. But seriously, that last tour was a real blast. … My humvee got blown up by a roadside bomb. The crazy thing is that it took me four tours and an IED just to figure out my lucky number was three.”
  • “I love messing with people. I love going to CVS or Walgreens. I get a hand basket and fill it up full of scar removal. I just want to see the look on the cashier’s face. … I love Fourth of July. I go to the fireworks stands and say, ‘Just give me the same stuff you gave me last year. It was great!’”
  • “Over the last six years, I’ve had 46 skin-graft surgeries. I don’t know if you know what that is but, basically, they take good skin from one part of your body to replace the burnt skin in another part. Essentially, they make a skin quilt out of you. They took my stomach and put it on top of my head. Now, I gotta pick lint out of my ears. I get a headache when I eat too much. And that’s not even the worst of it — I’m mooning all of you right now.”
  • “If my comedy career does take off, I’ll be the first comedian ever to show up to his roast pre-cooked. Comedy Central will have to change the name to ‘Serving Leftovers at Bobby Henline’s Reheating Special.’”

US Army Private First Class Keith M. Williams. 24 JUL 2014.

Died in Mirugol Kalay, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when the enemy attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Williams was assigned 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado.

US Army Staff Sergeant Benjamin G. Prange. 24 JUL 2014.

Died in Mirugol Kalay, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when the enemy attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Prange was assigned 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado.

USMC Lance Corporal Caleb L. Erickson. 28 FEB 2014.

Died in Helmand province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations. Erickson was assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Unbreakable.
Cpl. Matt Garst is unbreakable. The squad leader from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, stood on his own free will immediately after triggering an anti-personnel, improvised explosive device directly beneath his feet, which sent him tumbling six feet up and 15 feet through the air before landing on his limp head and shoulders during a patrol to the east of his company’s newly established observation post in Southern Shorsurak, Helmand province, Afghanistan, as part of Operation New Dawn, June 23. Thanks to luck, Garst’s tenacity, and mistakes by the enemy, the IED comprised of three liters of homemade explosive only partially detonated and Garst absorbed the blast unharmed, hold for feeling “like hell” the next day. Garst, from Charlotte, N.C., led his Marines the four miles back to their post after the blast. Following a day of recovery, he began patrolling efforts again. “I’m an aggressive person,” Garst said. “It pissed me off. All I want to do is make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’m just happy it wasn’t any of my guys. I’m not happy to get blown up by any means. I would have loved for it to have never happened. But, if it’s going to be anyone I’d rather it be me, and if it’s going to be a bomb, I’d rather it be that bomb, because it didn’t do shit.” Operation New Dawn is a joint operation between Marine Corps units and the Afghanistan National Army to disrupt enemy forces, which have been using the sparsely populated region between Marjah and Nawa as a safe haven.
(Photo and article by Sergeant Mark Fayloga, 23 JUN 2010.)
SOUTHERN SHORSURAK, Afghanistan — Cpl. Matt Garst should be dead.Few people survive stepping on an improvised explosive device. Even fewer walk away the same day after directly absorbing the force of the blast, but Garst did just that.A squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Garst was leading his squad on a patrol in Southern Shorsurak, Afghanistan, June 23 to establish a vehicle checkpoint in support of Operation New Dawn. The men were four miles from Lima Company’s newly established observation post when they approached an abandoned compound close to where they needed to set up their checkpoint. It would serve well as an operating base — a place for the squad to set up communications and rotate Marines in and out of. But first, it had to be secured.As they swept the area with a metal detector, the IED registered no warning on the device. The bomb was buried too deep and its metallic signature too weak. Two men walked over it without it detonating. At six feet, two inches tall and 260 pounds with all his gear on, Garst is easily the largest man in his squad by 30 or 40 pounds — just enough extra weight to trigger the IED buried deep in hard-packed soil.Lance Cpl. Edgar Jones, a combat engineer with the squad, found a pressure plate inside the compound and hollered to Garst, asking what he should do with it. Garst turned around to answer the Marine and stepped on the bomb. “I can just barely remember the boom,” Garst said. “I remember the start of a loud noise and then I blacked out.”Since Garst’s improbable run-in with the IED, his tale has spread through the rest of the battalion, and as often happens in combat units, the story mutates, the tale becoming more and more extraordinary about what happened next: He held onto his rifle the whole time … He actually landed on his feet … He remained unmoved, absorbing the impact like he was muffling a fart in a crowded elevator …What really happened even eludes Garst. All went black after the earth uppercut him. When he came to, he was standing on his feet holding his weapon, turning to see the remnants of the blast and wondering why his squad had a look on their faces as if they’d seen a ghost.Marines in Lima Company think Garst is the luckiest guy in the battalion, and while that may seem a fair assessment, it was the enemy’s shoddy work that left Garst standing. The three-liters of homemade explosive only partially detonated.Marines who witnessed the event from inside the compound caught glimpses of Garst’s feet flailing through the air just above the other side of the building’s eight-foot walls. The explosion knocked him at least fifteen feet away where he landed on his limp head and shoulders before immediately standing back up.Not quite sure of what had just happened, Garst turned back toward the blast, now nothing but a column of dirt and smoke rising toward the sun.“My first thought was, ‘Oh s—-, I just hit an IED,’” he said. “Then I thought, ‘Well I’m standing. That’s good.’”Garst’s squad stared at him in disbelief. The square-jawed Marine has a tendency to be short-tempered, and the realization that the blast was meant to kill him spiked his adrenaline and anger.“It pissed me off,” he said.He directed his men to establish a security perimeter while letting them know in his own way that he was OK.“What the f—- are you looking at?” he said. “Get on the cordon!”Garst quickly radioed back to base, calling an explosive ordnance disposal team and quick reaction force.“I called them and said, ‘hey, I just got blown up. Get ready,’” he said. “The guy thought I was joking at first. ‘You got blown up? You’re not calling me. Get out of here.’”Once EOD cleared the area, Garst led his squad the four miles back to their observation post — just hours after being ragdolled by an IED blast.“I wasn’t going to let anybody else take my squad back after they’d been there for me,” he said. “That’s my job.”The next day Garst awoke with a pounding headache and was as sore as he’d ever been in his life.“Just getting up from trying to sleep was painful,” he said.But he saw no reason being sore should slow him down. He popped some ibuprofen and after a day of rest, Garst was back out on patrol, showing his Marines and the enemy that just like his resolve — Garst is unbreakable. High-res

Unbreakable.

Cpl. Matt Garst is unbreakable. The squad leader from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, stood on his own free will immediately after triggering an anti-personnel, improvised explosive device directly beneath his feet, which sent him tumbling six feet up and 15 feet through the air before landing on his limp head and shoulders during a patrol to the east of his company’s newly established observation post in Southern Shorsurak, Helmand province, Afghanistan, as part of Operation New Dawn, June 23. Thanks to luck, Garst’s tenacity, and mistakes by the enemy, the IED comprised of three liters of homemade explosive only partially detonated and Garst absorbed the blast unharmed, hold for feeling “like hell” the next day. Garst, from Charlotte, N.C., led his Marines the four miles back to their post after the blast. Following a day of recovery, he began patrolling efforts again. “I’m an aggressive person,” Garst said. “It pissed me off. All I want to do is make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’m just happy it wasn’t any of my guys. I’m not happy to get blown up by any means. I would have loved for it to have never happened. But, if it’s going to be anyone I’d rather it be me, and if it’s going to be a bomb, I’d rather it be that bomb, because it didn’t do shit.” Operation New Dawn is a joint operation between Marine Corps units and the Afghanistan National Army to disrupt enemy forces, which have been using the sparsely populated region between Marjah and Nawa as a safe haven.

(Photo and article by Sergeant Mark Fayloga, 23 JUN 2010.)

SOUTHERN SHORSURAK, Afghanistan — Cpl. Matt Garst should be dead.

Few people survive stepping on an improvised explosive device. Even fewer walk away the same day after directly absorbing the force of the blast, but Garst did just that.

A squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Garst was leading his squad on a patrol in Southern Shorsurak, Afghanistan, June 23 to establish a vehicle checkpoint in support of Operation New Dawn. 

The men were four miles from Lima Company’s newly established observation post when they approached an abandoned compound close to where they needed to set up their checkpoint. It would serve well as an operating base — a place for the squad to set up communications and rotate Marines in and out of. But first, it had to be secured.

As they swept the area with a metal detector, the IED registered no warning on the device. The bomb was buried too deep and its metallic signature too weak. Two men walked over it without it detonating. 

At six feet, two inches tall and 260 pounds with all his gear on, Garst is easily the largest man in his squad by 30 or 40 pounds — just enough extra weight to trigger the IED buried deep in hard-packed soil.

Lance Cpl. Edgar Jones, a combat engineer with the squad, found a pressure plate inside the compound and hollered to Garst, asking what he should do with it. Garst turned around to answer the Marine and stepped on the bomb. 

“I can just barely remember the boom,” Garst said. “I remember the start of a loud noise and then I blacked out.”

Since Garst’s improbable run-in with the IED, his tale has spread through the rest of the battalion, and as often happens in combat units, the story mutates, the tale becoming more and more extraordinary about what happened next: He held onto his rifle the whole time … He actually landed on his feet … He remained unmoved, absorbing the impact like he was muffling a fart in a crowded elevator …

What really happened even eludes Garst. All went black after the earth uppercut him. When he came to, he was standing on his feet holding his weapon, turning to see the remnants of the blast and wondering why his squad had a look on their faces as if they’d seen a ghost.

Marines in Lima Company think Garst is the luckiest guy in the battalion, and while that may seem a fair assessment, it was the enemy’s shoddy work that left Garst standing. The three-liters of homemade explosive only partially detonated.

Marines who witnessed the event from inside the compound caught glimpses of Garst’s feet flailing through the air just above the other side of the building’s eight-foot walls. The explosion knocked him at least fifteen feet away where he landed on his limp head and shoulders before immediately standing back up.

Not quite sure of what had just happened, Garst turned back toward the blast, now nothing but a column of dirt and smoke rising toward the sun.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh s—-, I just hit an IED,’” he said. “Then I thought, ‘Well I’m standing. That’s good.’”

Garst’s squad stared at him in disbelief. The square-jawed Marine has a tendency to be short-tempered, and the realization that the blast was meant to kill him spiked his adrenaline and anger.

“It pissed me off,” he said.

He directed his men to establish a security perimeter while letting them know in his own way that he was OK.

“What the f—- are you looking at?” he said. “Get on the cordon!”

Garst quickly radioed back to base, calling an explosive ordnance disposal team and quick reaction force.

“I called them and said, ‘hey, I just got blown up. Get ready,’” he said. “The guy thought I was joking at first. ‘You got blown up? You’re not calling me. Get out of here.’”

Once EOD cleared the area, Garst led his squad the four miles back to their observation post — just hours after being ragdolled by an IED blast.

“I wasn’t going to let anybody else take my squad back after they’d been there for me,” he said. “That’s my job.”

The next day Garst awoke with a pounding headache and was as sore as he’d ever been in his life.

“Just getting up from trying to sleep was painful,” he said.

But he saw no reason being sore should slow him down. He popped some ibuprofen and after a day of rest, Garst was back out on patrol, showing his Marines and the enemy that just like his resolve — Garst is unbreakable.

USMC Master Sergeant Aaron C. Torian. 15 FEB 2014.

Died of wounds sustained from a detonated improved explosive device while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Torian was assigned to 2nd MSOB, Marine Special Operations Regiment, MARSOC out of Camp Legeune, North Carolina.

US Army Chief Warrant Officer Edward Balli. 20 JAN 2014.

Died in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds from small arms fire following a coordinated suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack by enemy forces. Balli was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Cavalry Regiment out of U.S. Army Europe, Vilseck, Germany. 

SOLDIER STORIES: This one not soon forgotten.

Captain Andrew Wagner, a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot with Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, California National Guard, goes through his pre-flight checks before conducting a maintenance mission at Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan. The 1st Bn., 168th Av. Regt., is responsible for providing medical evacuations throughout the Regional Command (West) area of operations.

(Photos and article by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer, 8 DEC 2013.)

SHINDAND AIRBASE, Afghanistan – Eight soldiers make their way into a dimly-lit tent on a brisk December morning at Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan. This isn’t the first time the eight soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, California National Guard, part of Task Force Nightmare, gathered together, nor will it be the last time they tell the story of the day they met Andy Miller. 

Each has their own perspective and take on that day; each with a different role, a different task – all of which played an integral part in what became a life-saving mission on top of a mountain in western Afghanistan. That eventful day, Sept. 7, 2013, is where the Andy Miller story begins. 

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Andy Miller, an instructor pilot at the Afghan National Army aviation training center at Shindand AB, was conducting his usual pre-flight checks with his student. According to Maj. David Lovett, the commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, and one of the eight story tellers who had never met Andy Miller before that fateful day, this was a routine Miller had been doing for nearly a year – he was just weeks away from going home. 

On this particular day, Miller and his Afghan copilot were to practice landing helicopters on top of small points of mountain ranges, or “pinnacles.” The two aviators set off towards a pinnacle that had been used many times before during Miller’s time in Afghanistan.

Back to the present day, where the eight soldiers telling this story come to a halting point, as the story reaches its own pinnacle. They all turn to Lovett, whose unit is responsible for the medical evacuation of personnel in the Regional Command (West) area of operations.

On Sept. 7, Lovett was just 24 hours removed from completing a training exercise on Sept. 6, working on medical evacuations. Irony, sheer coincidence, or some form of twisted fate had Lovett and his Soldiers putting that training to use less than 24 hours after the exercise was over. Lovett picks up the story, recalling how Miller and his Afghan co-pilot neared the pinnacle, which is where the mission took a turn for the worst.

“What happened next, was something out of a movie, something you just couldn’t believe,” Lovett said.

As the helicopter touched down, it set off a pressure-plate improvised explosive device. The blast destroyed the helicopter, leaving a blazing, smoking frame. Back on base, Lovett received a call of a downed aircraft requiring immediate assistance.

“I got the call and it was just go-time,” Lovett said. “We scrambled together, got in contact with a quick reaction force team and we moved out immediately.”

According to Lovett, Miller had removed himself and his co-pilot from the burning aircraft, even though he had a severely fractured leg. The pain was not enough to keep Miller from applying pressure and three tourniquets to his Afghan co-pilot who was also severely injured in the crash, as well as a tourniquet to himself.

Lovett added that Miller doesn’t remember doing any of this, “Probably because of the pain he was in. He was running on pure adrenaline,” he said.

It was an “all hands on deck” situation, as crews from the 1st Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, Missouri National Guard, who were in the area conducting their own maintenance mission, flew in to provide aerial security, and soldiers from 1st Battalion, 214th Field Artillery Regiment, Georgia National Guard, provided ground security. 

Miller radioed to whomever he could reach and as the medevac crew arrived, 1st Lt. Thomas Easter, a physician assistant with 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, was one of the first on ground to provide medical attention. As one of the eight soldiers who sat in the room telling the story of Andy Miller, Easter had an up close and personal view of a man he had never met, but saw him like nobody had before. As the helicopter hovered over the crash site, Easter was lowered down to Miller and his copilot, both unable to move due to enormous pain. 

“When I first got down there I saw the burning aircraft, I knew it wasn’t going to be good,” Easter said. “Thankfully, when I came upon them they were responsive and talking to me.”

At that point, instinct just took over for Easter. “I work as a PA in the emergency room back on the civilian side,” he said. “As a medic, you just have so many tasks, and from all the training and experience I have had, it just becomes mechanical.”

Easter, along with a crew, successfully littered the two individuals up, in what Lovett said took only an hour. “We weren’t thinking about anything else, or enemy threat,” Lovett said. “Thanks to the quick reaction force team we had both up in the air and on the ground, we were able to extract Andy and the Afghan pilot quickly.”

He smiles when thinking about how less than 24 hours before the incident, his soldiers were practicing the same exercise. “It was just some weird form of irony that literally the day after we trained, here we are doing this,” Lovett said. “It’s just crazy how things happen.”

Easter, along with the other seven soldiers in the room, echoed that statement. “It was just perfect timing that had happened,” Easter said. “It was fresh in everyone’s minds, everyone knew what they had to do.” 

Fast-forward to present day, and the story still is as fresh as ever. 

“It didn’t really hit me until I saw the first guy (the Afghan co-pilot) get littered up into the bird,” Easter said. “I turned back to Andy and saw him crying, that is how I knew ‘hey this is real – what we are doing, saving his life; this whole thing is real.’” 

Andy Miller was being treated at the Eisenhower Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Ga., less than a week later. Months later, Miller wrote an email to TF Nightmare’s leadership, which falls under TF Demon of Regional Command (South); Miller took the time to thank people he had never even met for saving his life.

“A ‘thank you’ surely does not sum up how thankful I truly am. Your soldiers, NCOs and officers truly saved my life that day,” he wrote. “And even though I don’t know any of the names of those involved, I am no less thankful to the professionals who rescued me that day.” After enduring 12 surgeries, Miller is now recovering with his wife and kids back home. 

As the eight soldiers who gathered to tell the story of Andy Miller finished, they left the room one by one, reflecting on that very day. The last one to leave was Lovett, who credits his unit’s willingness to constantly train and improve as the reason for success that day.

“We are always looking to challenge ourselves and improve on things,” he said. “Our unit looks to set the standard and be ahead of the curve, and because of that, we were and continue to be successful here in Afghanistan.”

Battered body, undaunted spirit.

semperannoying:

U.S. Army Sgt. Matt Krumwiede was on patrol in Afghanistan in June of 2012 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). The explosion tore away both his legs, damaged his left arm, and ripped open his abdominal cavity. The 22-year-old has since undergone around 40 surgeries and is learning to walk with prosthetic legs. He is keen to re-join the infantry as soon as his injuries allow.

(via weaponsgradegains)