Wounded Veteran Launches Comedy Career With Help from UCLA Program

Operation Mend offers reconstructive surgeries and support for injured veterans

During the past eight years, 129 injured veterans have come to Los Angeles for free reconstructive surgery at UCLA through a program called Operation Mend.

Bobby Henline, 43, is one of those injured veterans receiving help through the program.

In 2007 during his fourth tour of duty with the US Army in Iraq, Henline's Humvee was blown up by a roadside bomb. Four other soldiers were killed, and Henline received burns on more than one-third of his body.

"I would pray to God for the first year every night, 'I know you’re there, please take me. I don’t want to be a burden to my family anymore,'" Henline said.

But Henline's wife and three kids kept him going.

During his long hospitalization near his home in San Antonio, Texas, Henline discovered that he could help other injured veterans heal by making them laugh. He began to dream of a career in comedy, but had no connections in the entertainment industry.

Henline first got involved with operation Mend in 2010, and UCLA connected Henline with a local "buddy family" to help support him while he was receiving medical treatment.

Steve and Michele Garber of Woodland Hills volunteered to take Henline and his family sightseeing while they were in Los Angeles, and they eventually developed a close friendship.

Despite having no connection to the military, the Garbers have offered their support to Henline and four other veterans through the program.

The Garbers said they wanted their kids to learn first-hand about the sacrifices veterans make.

"We didn't want to just be involved superficially on things like Memorial Day or Fourth of July," Steve Garber said. "This was a way for us to become involved and help out."

The Garbers were so charmed by Henline's sense of humor, they introduced him to their former neighbor, comedian Brad Garrett from "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Garrett invited Henline to perform at his comedy club in Las Vegas, and the Garbers were there, cheering him on.

"We were like nervous parents, like oh my goodness, this is the big time," Steve Garber said. "We were very nervous, and he hit it out of the park."

Henline now tours the country performing comedy and works tirelessly raising money and awareness for other wounded veterans.

Henline said each time he steps on stage he brings with him the four soldiers who died in that Humvee in Iraq.

“If I can help more people than that guy hurt, then that’s the best revenge I can get for the guys in that vehicle with me,” Henline said.

Henline also has a new granddaughter, a child he dreamed about during those early dark days.

"I knew one day I’d get to hold my grandchild," Henline said. "That helped me a lot."

Henline's granddaughter is named Addison Hope for the inspiration she gave her grandfather to keep going.

"I tattooed Hope on my pinky," Henline said. "She's got me wrapped around her pinky. When she learns how to walk like she's doing now, she's going to hold onto my pinky and walk with me."

If you would like to volunteer or donate to help Veterans receiving surgery at UCLA, please visit the Operation Mend website.

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