It’s been almost 10 years since Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline, just three weeks into his fourth tour in Iraq, almost died. For a while after, he wished he had. Tuesday, he shared his story with students at Adair County High School, in a program presented by Adanta and Tempered Steel.
“I prayed to God every night just to take me,” Henline, whose Humvee was blown to bits by a roadside bomb, told the ACHS student body. “I had survivor’s guilt, because I survived and the four other guys didn’t, and I felt like a burden to my family. I just wanted it to end.”
Henline lost his left hand and suffered severe burns over 38-percent of his body. Over the next two-plus years, he would have 42 surgeries, including dozens of skin grafts. Even today, he cannot fully close either eye. Throughout his painful rehabilitation, he used humor to get through the hardest times.
“My occupational therapist kept telling me to do standup, so I finally decided to give it a shot to shut her up,” Henline said. “I went to an open mic and did three minutes of comedy—nobody laughed.”
Despite the shaky start, Henline continued to practice his standup. He saw in it an opportunity to share his story, to talk—and even joke—about his scars and burns and help others through their own struggles. He says he discovered the healing power of humor and a way to bring joy and happiness to himself and others.
“We all laugh—it makes us feel good,” Henline told the students. “It truly is the best medicine. Once you can laugh at something, you know you can get through it.”
From there, Henline launched into a few of his comedy bits. “They had to take part of my stomach and move it to my head,” Henline said of one of his skin grafts. “Now every time I eat too much, I get a headache.”
In addition to his comedy, which was featured in the documentary “Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor,” Henline still jumps out of airplanes, like he did in the Army. He surfs, travels the world, and plays with his 2-year-old grandchild.
“I’m not saying any of this to brag,” Henline said to the crowd Tuesday. “I say it because I’m living my dream—I’m happy. If I can live my dream, you can live yours. There’s nothing stopping you.”
By Wes Feese
Media Relations, Adair County Schools