Tag Archives: Iraq

COMEDY AT WAR: Returning Home

My first trip overseas to entertain the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq was in 2004. I was 32 at the time. Close to 80% of our current military weren’t even in high school yet. Comedy and the reality of war have been two consistencies I’ve lived with daily since. On every trip to a war zone, I make new friends and can’t help but identify with them. In 1990, I was a fresh faced seaman. Every time I return home from one of my comedy tours, I pray they do the same…return home. Safely. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Bagram Air Base Afghanistan.

My first few weeks home are always a struggle to readjust my sleep and my mental state. I come home caring about different things and taking a very large majority of the world’s problems more seriously. My girlfriend had to sleep in another room last night because I was reacting to every sound and jumping in my sleep. In the four years we’ve been together, that has never happened before. 

Being an entertainer seems so petty to me, when the handshakes, life talks, courage, selflessness, shared laughter, names, and faces are fresh. It doesn’t just shut off for me. It chips away at a part of me each time, without my really being conscious of it. The mind is brutal when you’re not mindful of it. A big part of it is survivor’s guilt. Although I’m very happy not being in the military anymore, the loyalty and connection to every brother and sister serving never leaves. 

The GI’s Of Comedy

I’m grateful that I’ve been doing this long enough to understand/recognize these steps and I feel like I’m mostly sharing this for my fellow comedians who are also military veterans. For everyone else, my point is that these trips I’ve taken to make service members laugh are a complete privilege, but at the same time they break my heart and are a complete mind f*ck. They have had an impact on my thoughts, feelings & life. 

The reason I’m sharing this is because I’m just a comedian. Just a guy spending a week or maybe a month over there. Please imagine a brave man or woman who lives/lived that life on a daily basis for a very very long time. I HATE war. I LOVE warriors. I know the part I play in all of this and I am grateful for my purpose. It has helped me come to terms with what happens over there.  But not with all of it, I believe that’s impossible. All heroes, friends, and strangers please know that for as long as I am walking this earth, I am here for you. Don’t be too proud to talk! PLEASE! I’m here to make you laugh, have a conversation, or just listen. Family, friends, service members, veterans… any and all.  Humanity is my light…

THANKFUL FOR SILENT PROTECTORS: My Country Music Convoy Through Iraq

 The latest Episode of the Comic Relief series I do for Military.com was just posted. I want to share “the story behind the story” on this one. I feel it’s fitting today because I’m very thankful for it.

The soldier in this story, Micah, isn’t just a friend, a veteran, a Airman, a PTSD fighter/survivor, and a hero, he is someone who I know for a FACT saved my life. I am here able to write these words right now because of his selfless actions. And I know he gives it very little thought, because it’s just how he’s built.

I often say my favorite audience member is someone I got to entertain overseas in a war zone now back home safe sitting, laughing, blended in amongst the rest. Think about that for a second. When you go to a concert, attend church, support your children’s school function and so on… You may be sitting next to a man or woman much like my friend Micah, silent protectors shouldering life’s often-harsh realities.

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Micah In The Middle

It was an eight-hour (give or take) convoy through Iraq in 2005, hot, tense, funny & very real. Fellow comedian Reno Collier and I stared out the windows taking in rare visions and listening to extremely sad country music. Once outside our humvee when we arrived safely in Kuwait, we could see the cracked window from the small arms fire we took on our trip. Micah said “soooo… you’re not supposed to see that… yeah… that was fun.” Nervous laughter followed by all.

How do you thank someone who saved your life? Including someone in a story is my way of showing how grateful I am for them. When asked, “what’s your comedy about?” my reply is “family, friends and life experiences,” all of which mean the world to me.

This is just one person, one example, one story about the type of person we need to be very thankful for: selfless heroes.

The story in this video below is pretty damn funny. Enjoy!  

G.I. Jokes: From Combat Zone To Comedy Zone

The All Warrior Network created a short documentary about U.S. Army Veteran and now comedian Justin Wood’s inspirational story. I got to play a small part in his journey. Our friendship and Veteran loyalty is captured extremely well. It’s a positive, funny & heartfelt story. You can’t ask for much more than that. Enjoy!

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THE ONES THAT MEAN THE MOST

Last night I did a show at a cabin in the woods for 14 Purple Heart recipients who were on a weekend hunting retreat. I feel like I’ve done pretty much every kind of show, but this was my very first just standing in a living room next to a warm fireplace while a group of burly dudes in camo spread out rounds of ammo as they sat at a kitchen table or living room chairs.
As a performer I’d say the “conditions” were not the best. Ha. As a person I was truly inspired by my audience. They could not have been cooler to some guy (me) who showed up, stood up and started talking. Trust me they’d much rather had a stripper and I completely agreed she’d have been a more welcomed performance. But good luck getting a woman to drive over an hour into a mountain to meet a bunch of dudes in a cabin… even I was getting a Deliverance vibe by the tail end of my travels.

I’ve noticed over the years that the performances that mean the most to me are the ones that have me really thinking on my way home. The ones that stay with me, make me ponder, and possibly help me grow somehow. Last night I witnessed a group of men bust their asses to take care of a group of men who’d risk their asses with consequence. The hosts were determined to make sure these guys were having a great time. The guys themselves all smiled, laughed, gave each other and myself sh*t while being polite, fun and thankful. That doesn’t happen everyday.
I say this often: The world I see presented in front of me on/in the news or social media is not the one I experience. It’s a pity that anger and harsh opinions are more likely to infect our society’s information cycle than to create inspiration and thoughtfulness. Because my drive home last night was filled with the latter and it’s one I won’t forget for all the right reasons.
Thank you, gentlemen.

When I Get To See A Hero Laugh At Home

Last nights second show was the closest thing I’ve had to that feeling you get as a kid on Christmas morning. The lead up, excitement and joy. This happens to me every time I know a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airmen who I had the opportunity to entertain in Iraq or Afghanistan comes to see me here back home. Knowing they made it back and I get to see them HERE ALIVE! Nothing in my life has this kind of significance, importance and is as internally powerful. The joy is completely fueled by relief. In some cases seeing them can/has been difficult. Life back home is far from easy for a good number of our heroes. But seeing them, shaking their hand & sharing that manly or womanly hug let’s me know whatever fight they may be having at least it’s here on the home front now. My respect, friendship, support and loyalty will never waver and is always accessible. I grew up with only sisters. Who undoubtedly bring my life’s biggest joys. In a way I have always searched for a brother… I have found many. In life, the military and even the entertainment world. What is life without true bonds between humans? Just wandering I would think. I have been fortunate to never wander. Which brings me to last night. My friend here is named Micah Clifton. We met in Iraq where he was in charge of keeping myself and the other comedians safe. I bonded with Micah tighter then any other service member over all my years. I have zero doubt it was do to his great sense of humor that complimented an incredible professionalism. His job was to keep us ignorant, safe & clear of the possible dangers that could and did come upon us. He was/is simply the BEST I have ever encountered at giving you a smile that tricked you into thinking everything is fine. I know this because since he’s been out I have gotten the “let me tell you what was REALLY happening THAT DAY talk”.  When I tell you it takes a truly special kind of person to be able to navigate situation like those. Please understand my words here can never do his courage justice. Micah is one example of so many men and woman who under our colors function in ways most could never even comprehend and they hope you never do. Micah’s just one story, he’s my protector, my Christmas morning… My Brother! You made it f*cking back! Will love you till my final breath!

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