The contributions and ultimate sacrifice of heroes are being diluted by politicians, news anchors, and individuals in echo chambers. I can tell you from my own experience, traveling with coffins draped with flags and participating in removal ceremonies, that I know in my bones how much of my life, happiness, and freedom I owe to every heroic service member and their families. It is a constant part of my mindset. It also represents the tiniest fraction of discomfort when compared to the sacrifices of our fallen and their families. Get over yourselves left, right, and center. Feeling like you are right does not give anyone permission to act wrong. This behavior is wrong. Loss requires comfort, listening, and support – at the very least. Those three things are also exactly what is missing from the present political, journalistic, and social media atmospheres. Someone I respect a great deal said these words to me years ago and I feel they are a relevant reminder to our current society… “Get your sh*t together.”
I had the pleasure to entertain this strong woman at the Chaz & AJ Veterans Gala over the weekend. Her story is her own but echoes others. This is what courage looks like. It’s not on display, often written about or portrayed accurately. It’s living with traumatic events daily and dealing with them during the quiet moments of life. Having the strength to fight through, talk & share. I watched a room full of over 500 people come together in a small pocket of our land to help, support & show their appreciation to a Military Veteran, mother & fellow community member. That’s the world I like, want & will do my best to continue living in. Because it inspires me. If you want to make a difference in the world, start with your own. It’s something I’ve witnessed time and time again. U.S. Army Specialist Ryan Dostie is a shining example. Her family, friends, community & fellow veterans are the better because of the very hard steps she’s taken. Thank you Ryan!
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.
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.
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…