Williams, center, laughs in the back stage during the entertaining 2010 performance of “Holiday Troop Visit” by U.S. celebrities for Christmas at boardwalk stage of the Kandahar Air Field. (Behrouz Mehri /AFP/Getty Images)
Legendary actor and comedian Robin Williams, who was found dead Monday from an apparent suicide, played an airman in “Good Morning Vietnam.” His connections to the military go beyond that, so much so that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and others have remarked upon his passing.
“The entire of Department of Defense community mourns the loss of Robin Williams,” Hagel said Monday evening. “Robin was a gifted actor and comedian, but he was also a true friend and supporter of our troops. From entertaining thousands of service men and women in war zones, to his philanthropy that helped veterans struggling with hidden wounds of war, he was a loyal and compassionate advocate for all who serve this nation in uniform. He will be dearly missed by the men and women of DoD – so many of whom were personally touched by his humor and generosity.”
The man Williams portrayed in “Good Morning Vietnam,” Adrian Cronauer, had this to say, among other things in an Air Force Times interview: “Regardless of what he felt like politically, he recognized the fact nobody seemed to recognize during Vietnam, which was that there’s a difference between the people who are making the policy and the people who are carrying out that policy, the military.”
Pentagon writer Jim Garamone wrote a touching account of Williams’ visits with the troops, filled with anecdotes like this one:
In Afghanistan, the “clamshell” at Bagram Air Field was a favorite venue for him, and he performed there many times. In 2010, he started the show with “I love what you’ve done with the place.”
He was not a prima donna. One time a sandstorm grounded the party at an outpost near Baghdad. Robin along with everyone else crammed into a small “tin can” to spend the night. The next day his jokes about snoring and gaseous emissions pretty much convulsed everyone.
And this is a pretty amusing improvised moment from one of his performances for the troops, when he is confused about military protocol and mines comedy from it.