Wounded veterans bring healing through comedy

Thursday, July 3, 2014
Comedy with an edge and a purpose
Three wounded warriors are the men of Crosshairs Comedy

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Bobby Henline, 42, pulled five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He served in the US Army during Desert Storm. After 9-11, he re-enlisted.

All went well, at least as well as it could in war, until his last tour, when an IED exploded, catching his truck on fire. Four of his comrades were killed. Another soldier pulled him from the burning vehicle. He was burned over more than 80 percent of his body. The top of his head was burned to the bone. And after two grueling years of surgeries and rehab, he asked that his left hand be amputated, freeing him from the pain it caused.

So what does he have to smile, let alone laugh about? Plenty.

Henline, who's called the "well-done comedian," is one of the stars of the Crosshairs Comedy Troupe. He and fellow vet comics have been featured in a Showtime documentary on healing through humor.

He begins his routine by staring at the audience. It can get uncomfortable, he says, not so much for him, but for people uncomfortable staring back at the toll war can take on a veteran.

Once reluctant to go to restaurants because he was concerned it would make other people uneasy, Henline has been known to wear a t-shirt that reads, "Got Burns."

Fellow comic and Army veteran Raul Sanchez was in firefights in Iraq and went home after four years with stress disorder. Now he takes aim at his fears on stage, and leaves people laughing.

And then there is Anthony Torino -- an Air Force veteran who served as an occupational therapist. He didn't go to war, but he helped those who did, from physical therapy to counseling and drug addictions. His own tragedy came with the death of his wife in a motorcycle accident. Now it's part of his routine.

"If I can do that onstage, there are no sacred cows in my comedy," he says.

It gets the audience to think, and perhaps brings them back from a place where their own problems were overwhelming. Laughter shines a light, which means the darkness retreats.

That's the intention of the Crosshairs Comedy Troupe, appearing for the first time in Houston, which is surprising since the trio is from San Antonio.

They'll be appearing Thursday, Friday (4th of July) and Saturday night at the Joke Joint Comedy Showcase on the Gulf Freeway at Fuqua.

And veterans get in free.