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…
MEMORIAL DAY: Afghanistan
For the past 10 days I traveled throughout Afghanistan with these comedians. All military veterans whose mission was to make every troop we had the pleasure to perform for laugh. We are accompanied here by the heroes who were in charge of keeping us safe throughout our tour. It’s one of my life’s greatest pleasures to befriend people like every single one of these gentlemen while entertaining our men and women answering the call. From big established bases to remote small FOBS (Forward Operation Bases), the mission was executed perfectly. I feel extremely thankful today in particular because I try to honor our brothers and sisters lost by living the fullest life possible. Every trip taken to see our service members reminds me the value of life and freedom.
Thank you To The Fallen.
This Memorial Day interview I did with Bridge Street in Syracuse really explains why it’s so important to me. Thanks for having me ladies.
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!
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.