Army veteran, comedian to raise PTSD awareness with Mahar talks

  • HENLINE

  • HENLINE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2021 5:18:17 PM

ORANGE — The U.S. Army veteran who has made a name for himself as a motivational speaker and stand-up comedian after being the sole survivor of a 2007 improvised explosive device blast in Iraq is scheduled to visit Ralph C. Mahar Regional School this weekend to address post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide awareness.

Retired Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline is slated to speak at 6 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday at the invitation of Keltic Irons, a firefighter training business owned by Orange firefighter James Hopkins. Tickets are $20 and all proceeds will go to Forging Forward, Henline’s nonprofit dedicated to helping military veterans, law enforcement officers, firefighters, 911 dispatchers, first responders and their families.

Hopkins said he discovered Henline on the video-sharing social media platform TikTok and reached out to book him at Mahar. Hopkins said Franklin County has had a tremendous amount of tragedy in the form of structure fires that greatly affected his co-workers and friends in the fire service, and he realized there is little help for people with PTSD.

“Folks with PTSD aren’t bad people — they’re just normal people that have been dealt a bad hand,” he said. “(The weekend is) basically a seminar on PTSD awareness.”

The one-hour shows are for those 18 and older only, as there will be graphic photos and adult comedy. Tickets will be sold at the door, but advance purchases are encouraged. Send an email to fanoftobyk@aol.com or afdjames@aol.com to reserve your tickets. Henline said question-and-answer sessions will follow his talks.

Henline, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, was with four other men in Zaganiyah, Iraq, north of Baghdad, on April 7, 2007, when an IED blast destroyed the humvee they were riding in, killing comrades Spc. Levi K. Hoover, Capt. Jonathan Grassbaugh, Spc. Ebe F. Emolo and Pfc. Rodney L. McCandless. Henline, on his fourth tour of duty in Iraq, survived but suffered burns on 38 percent of his body, sustained fractures in his face and shoulders, and had his head burned down to his scalp. He was in a medically induced coma for two weeks and remained in the hospital for six months.

“I cried to God every night to take me. I felt like a burden to my family,” Henline recalled.

He eventually had his left hand amputated and has had 48 skin graft surgeries to date.

“Here I was on the brink of death and wanting to give up on life … but if you don’t give in to the demons and kill yourself and die by suicide, and keep living, you don’t know what’s around the corner,” he said. “You’ve got to stay strong. If I can do it, you can do it.”

Henline said he did not know his fallen comrades well, having been in that unit only weeks before the explosion, but he has since grown close with their families, who helped him overcome his survivor’s guilt and live life to the fullest in their memories.

“I have to live for them,” he said. “I have a very blessed life.”

Henline, 50, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., said humor was his defense mechanism during his recovery and he first took to comedy 12 years ago to disprove an occupational therapist’s suggestion that stand-up would be beneficial to him.

“I’ve been trying to prove her wrong ever since,” he said. “I enjoy it. It’s a difficult way to reach people.”

Henline has performed professionally at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club in Las Vegas, Laugh Factory in Chicago and Hollywood Improv in Los Angeles. His routine is made up of self-deprecating dark humor (“I had a good time in Iraq, but that last tour was a real blast. It took me four tours to realize my lucky number is three”) and he bills himself as “The Well Done Comedian.”

More information about Henline is available at welldonecomedian.com.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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