Robin Williams, How He Brought Joy to Iraq
I have no doubt that you heard the troubling news that the stand-up comedian and actor Robin Williams passed away yesterday. First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers are for his family, friends, fans, and whomever he has touched during his time on Earth. It is only a person who has fought in war who can truly know what the evils of war are, and I have no doubt Williams fought a battle in his mind for many years. Now that the war is over, I hope he has finally reached the peace he was yearning for.
Many fans are left questioning why he committed suicide. Some theorize Robin took his life because he was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Robin’s dear friend was Michael J. Fox, so perhaps he was fearful that his symptoms might become as severe as Fox’s. Personally, I believe that a person should be able to die with dignity, if that person is plagued with a terminal illness, or an illness that cannot be cured, and is severely affecting your quality of life. Sometimes, telling someone to fight to the very end is selfish on our part. During these incidents, it is better just to tell the person you love them, and let them make their own decision on how to die with dignity.
Robin Williams was born on July 21, 1951, making him 63 when he passed away. As a young man, he worked as a stand-up comedian at night, and during the day, he worked meager jobs to pay his rent and bills. When Robins was 27-years old, he landed the leading role as the lovable and quirky alien on "Mork and Mindy".
The movie that I will always love Robin in most was "Mrs. Doubtfire." It was a heartfelt movie about a dad willing to do anything to spend time with his children. My favorite part of that movie was when Robin was on the bus, and the bus driver checked out Robin's hairy man legs, and said "I love a woman with a Mediterranean look." Robins brought a lot of love and joy into the heart of millions. Awkward!
When I joined the Marines at age 17 (with parent's permission of course), I deployed to Iraq. On our very few down times In Iraq, we were allowed to watch DVDs on these small (5x5) portable players we could buy at the base exchange. Some lucky Marines in our unit got their parents to send them. On one very short break while I was in Fallujah, Iraq, I saw "Good Morning, Vietnam." It was nice to think about someone else who was in the war and could find the humor in it. I had a hard time doing that myself.
I was a combat driver in the Marines, making routine stops all over Iraq to deliver food, medicine, clothes, blankets, hygiene items, ammunition, detainees, and a lot more. I also transported the explosive ordnance disposal team (EOD), which what civilians call "the bomb squad." I was right beside them when they detonated the explosives. Robin Williams gave me humor and joy when I really needed it.
When I came back to my forward operating base, the base that I called home, there were these bright yellow flyers all around the base saying that Robin Williams and the USO team were putting together a comedy night. I ran over to the truck bay and prayed that my name was not on the list to make a truck run the night of the comedy show. I was in the clear! Now, I just had to hope that the Iraqi insurgents would take a break for the night and not mortar us. Amazingly, they did. Maybe they had really good binoculars, and they were watching the show too. Stranger things in Iraq did happen
Like everyday in Iraq, my unit had called our morning formation before we went to morning chow. Our Lieutenant asked if anyone had seen the flyers, and we all replied with "Ooh-rah!". Lt. lowered his headline like he was sad, and said that not everyone on base could go. There just wasn't enough room, and someone had to provide security at the guard shacks. Then he lifted his head up and smiled and said "But that ain't going to be us, boys!" as he clapped his hands together. Someone was a big fan of Robin Williams I could see. Since there were five females and 400 males, I am used to the male pronouns, and being called "gentleman," "gents", and "boys". It doesn't matter to me, and honest, I prefer it. I hate when they say, "Lady and gentleman," because I can see all the eyes on me. I didn't care, because I was going to see Robin Williams!
I was going to see Robin Williams live, and not just on my puny 5x5 portable DVD player with 20 Marines surrounding it at night just to be able to let our hair down and watch a movie. I felt like God answered my prayers, because we had been working so hard, for so many months, and our morale needed a boost, and his name was "Robin Williams."
The day of the performance, it seemed like every minute felt like an hour. My partner was still alive then, and we were busy "QCing" (Quality Control) all the trucks. Does each truck have a one-month supply of MREs and water? Check. Do we have two five-gallon jugs of emergency fuel? Check. Do all the lights work? Check. Is the armored plating protecting the driver in place and attached properly? Check. Is there anything leaking under the truck? Check, check, check. We lived an exciting life.
I must have annoyed my partner that day. Even though I had my own watch on my wrist, I kept asking him what time it was. It baffled me why he wasn't so excited. My partner was 1st generation Mexican, so maybe Robin Williams just wasn't his thing. He would tease me and say "it's not like he is going to take you back to his tent for the night, right?" I just rolled my eyes and said "the night is young, my friend." For a split second, I started to mentally panic. What if he did ask me to his tent after the show? Would I actually have to say yes? Wouldn't there be Black Water there guarding him? What would I do with my rifle? While my partner and friend was watching the multiple thoughts on my face, he smiled and answered them saying "Chica, don't flatter yourself", and I said, "Love you too, Hoss". Then I grumbled under my breath for an 10-minutes that he was the one that brought it up.
Finally, 2100 (9:00 p.m.) had arrived, and it couldn't have come quick enough. We all gathered around this makeshift stage, before a police tape preventing us from getting too close to the actor. Before he even said a word, Robin started passing out cans of near beer. If you were like me, you have never heard of near beer before, it's basically what diet soda is to soda, as what near beer is to beer. My English teacher would be so proud. There was I think 0.05% alcohol in it; so basically none. They did sell some near beer at the exchange, but we never bought any. We can't drink alcohol while we were deployed, so we never bothered to remind ourselves what we could not have. Think about it. At all times, we have an assault rifle, a Kabar, 120 M16 rounds, some had pistols as well, and many of us had two grenades. Would you want your military in the Middle East loaded, and well...loaded? I think not.
After the near beer were passed around, Williams gave us these candy cigars, the kind fathers-to-be get when their baby is born. We are allowed to smoke in the dessert (but I didn't), so that is one reason why I was a little confused at the candy cigars. That's when Robin Williams made his first joke. Williams said "I was going to bring you all nice ladies and gentleman delicious, authentic, Cuban cigars since they are not illegal in Iraq. However, I was worried about your health. I don't want you guys and gals developing a bad habit then developing lung cancer." That might not seem funny to civilians, but it was hilarious for us. In this crowd of maybe 300 Marines, 200 of us had grenades on our person at that very second. Lung cancer? Please, Plus, my unit had 85% chance of surviving the war; a single cigar was the least of our worries. I saved my candy cigar; I wanted to "smoke" it, or rather eat it when I was stateside. Until then, it would be my good luck charm, or so I thought. Check out a few of my other articles to see what happened.
Thank you Robin Williams, you brought so much joy to people all around the world. I hope you are finally at peace. You may be gone, but not forgotten. On behalf of all Marines, "Ooh rah!”