By Alan Morales, WTC Stratcom
It’s another bout of physical therapy.
While lying down on a table, AW2 Soldier SSG Robert “Bobby” Henline is staring at the fluorescent lights above him. With 35% of his body burned, Bobby’s limbs need to be stretched to prevent scarring from immobilizing his joints. The therapist begins.
The areas that did not suffer third degree burns begin shooting pain all over him. Nevertheless, as Bobby’s mind instructs him to display the physical and mental reactions of pain, his heart leads him to another course of action—crack a joke.
It was during these moments that Bobby turned to comedy to help cope with the pain. As he explained to me during a phone conversation, “…there is no way people would get this, but I figured if I could get people to laugh at me, then I would be able to get myself through my recovery.”
And laugh they did. His jokes didn’t just help him through the 3+ years of hospitalization or through the 40 or so surgeries he has undergone, in Bobby’s eyes, they more importantly made those around him crack a smile.
“They laugh at me. That’s the goal,” says Bobby. Through his comedy, Bobby attempts to break down his story so the general public doesn’t just accept his disfigurement, but rather understands that he’s still the Bobby he was before his injury—hilarious.
For Bobby, his stand-up comedy is part of his mission to raise awareness. From influencing people to enforce fire prevention policies to giving people inspiration to overcome their own challenges, Bobby’s stand-up is more than laughter. It’s hope.
“If a smile or chuckle from a burn joke makes even just one person think about installing sprinklers in their house later down the line, then that’s one joke that may save a life.” This is the mission that Bobby has set for himself.
Even on the phone, Bobby made me laugh. While discussing his experience with skin grafts, Bobby explained, “…we may look like zombies, except we get our meat from the local morgue.” Responding with laughter, I realized that I had experienced what his audience must experience, understanding through laughter.
Bobby has taught people many new things, myself included, and is actively pursuing his career as a comedian and motivational speaker. It’s a goal he plans to complete with each new performance and it’s a mission he plans to accomplish one laugh at a time.