The Healing Power of Humor

O n April 7, 2007, Army Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline was escorting a U.S. convoy on his fourth tour in Iraq when the Humvee he was driving was struck by a roadside bomb just north of Baghdad. The blast killed the four soldiers riding with him, and Bobby sustained severe burns to 38 percent of his body, fractured bones in his face, and irreparable damage to his left hand, which eventually had to be amputated.

Bobby spent two weeks in a coma, and during that time he was transported to the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. His wife and three children relocated from California and stood by his side during his long and difficult recovery.

Bobby spent six months at the burn center, and it took 18 months for doctors to successfully graft skin onto his exposed skull. To date, Bobby has undergone 46 surgeries. 

“For the first year, I’d pray to God, ‘Let me fall asleep at night and not wake up,’ so that my family could move on,” he says. “I felt useless.”

Bobby found that maintaining a sense of humor helped him stay optimistic. He began to tell self-deprecating jokes to his doctors and fellow wounded servicemen. His occupational therapist frequently urged him to pursue comedy as a means to overcome his feelings of depression and survivor’s guilt.

In August 2009, Bobby pinky swore with his therapist that he would give stand-up comedy a shot while he was visiting Los Angeles for a medical consultation. Shortly thereafter, Bobby performed at The Comedy Store, labeling himself “The Well-Done Comedian.”

Since that time, Bobby has made a name for himself as both a stand-up comic and motivational speaker. “I continue to serve and help other burn survivors, other people with disfigurements, to help them see that there’s a bright side somewhere in their life — and how to laugh at yourself, and how to laugh at life,” Bobby says.

Watch Bobby help lift the spirit of a young man who was badly burned in a house fire.

Army veteran J.R. Martinez shares his harrowing survival story
Living with severe burn scars