On Monday, following the death of Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams, many around the country — from fans to celebrities, the military community to politicians — offered condolences for the family of the outgoing star who spent much of his own time entertaining U.S. troops in war zones overseas.
Williams, who some call the Bob Hope of our generation, entertained nearly 100,000 U.S. troops in more 13 different countries during his United Service Organizations tours. He died in his California home of an apparent suicide at the age of 63.
“The entire of Department of Defense community mourns the loss of Robin Williams,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Monday night. “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 USO issued a statement via Facebook last night, offering its condolences: “The entire USO family is saddened by the news of Robin Williams’ passing. One of the great comedic actors of his generation, Williams traveled around the world to lift the spirits of our troops and their families. He will always be a part of our USO family and will be sorely missed.”
Retired Army General Carter Ham remembers Williams for his ability to instantly connect to any troop.
“He had this uncanny ability to make an instantaneous personal connection whether he was talking to a young soldier one-on-one or whether he was talking to an audience of several thousand,” Ham said. “I think he earned the love and the respect of the uniformed services and I know that personally I’ll miss him dearly.”
Ham, who was with Williams on at least one occasion while he performed for the troops, said the late comedian tried to inject humor into an otherwise humorless environment.
“During his performances I think what he hoped to bring was a couple of minutes of humor, a couple of minutes away from the seriousness of the mission that they were embarked upon and a moment to reflect, to bring a little bit of home to them,” Ham added. “Those who were able to see him and meet him in person I think detected that generosity of his spirit, the genuine nature of his, his love for the troops, his respect for them. I think that will long endure.”