2013.  Dallas, TX.  USA.  Bobby in his Motel 6 room after performing his comedy routine.   Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007.  He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries.  He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
Bobby Henline, 41, is a veteran of four tours to Iraq and the sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. Henline is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries, seen here in his Motel 6 room after performing. Dallas, Texas, 2013.Peter van Agtmael—Magnum for TIME
2013.  Dallas, TX.  USA.  Bobby in his Motel 6 room after performing his comedy routine.   Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007.  He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries.  He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013.  San Antonio, TX.  USA.  Bobby performs his comedy routine at the Uptown 78 Lounge.   Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007.  He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries.  He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013. San Antonio, TX. USA. Bobby with a fellow burned service member at the Bracken Saloon after his weekly comedy routine. Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries. He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2012.  San Antonio, TX.  USA.  Bobby performs his comedy routine at the Uptown 78 Lounge.   Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007.  He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries.  He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2012.  Dallas, TX.  USA.  Bobby with friends in the Taste of the Islands restaurant after performing his comedy routine.   Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007.  He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries.  He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013. San Antonio, TX. USA. Bobby at the door to his apartment after his weekly comedy gig at the Bracken Saloon. Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries. He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013. Humble, TX. USA. Bobby gets ready for bed at a Motel 6. Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries. He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013. Humble, TX. USA. Bobby goes to sleep at a Motel 6. Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries. He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013.  San Antonio, TX.  USA.  Bobby at the Uptown 78 Lounge before performing his comedy routine.   Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007.  He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries.  He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013. Livingston, TX. USA. Bobby looks at pictures of Rodney McCandless with his father, Lynn. Rodney was killed in the IED explosion that injured Bobby. For years McCandless's family didn't know that anyone had survived the attack until Bobby was able to reach them by Facebook. Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries. He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013. El Campo, TX. USA. Bobby consoles Chastity, the sister of Rodney McCandless. Rodney was killed in the IED explosion that injured Bobby. For years Chastity didn't know that anyone had survived the attack until Bobby was able to reach her by Facebook. She was overcome by emotion in their first meeting, wanting to know all the last details of Rodney's life. Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries. He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013.  San Antonio, TX.  USA.  Bobby at home in San Antonio with his dog.  Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007.  He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries.  He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013. Livingston, TX. USA. Bobby and Lynn McCandless at the grave of Lynn's son, Rodney. Rodney was killed in the IED explosion that injured Bobby. For years McCandless's family didn't know that anyone had survived the attack until Bobby was able to reach them by Facebook. It was their first meeting and Bobby wanted to pay his respects. Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries. He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013. Galveston, TX. USA. Bobby tells jokes to Grant, a 12-year old who was burned as a toddler and was about to undergo his 37th surgery. Bobby went to visit him to cheer him up. Bobby says "Most humans will never understand what it's like to be burnt. It's probably the most painful thing to recover from. Surgeries are my biggest fear. I'd go back to Iraq in a second, but tell me i've got another surgery and I'm going to freak out." Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries. He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013. Galveston, TX. USA. Bobby walks along the beach after visiting Grant, a 12-year old who was burned as a toddler. He was having a surgery the next day and Bobby went by his hotel to cheer him up. Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries. He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2012.  San Antonio, TX.  USA.  Bobby at the Uptown 78 Lounge before performing his comedy routine.   Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007.  He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries.  He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013.  Dallas, TX.  USA.  Bobby on ice with singer Celine Ray after the national anthem.  He was the center of Military Appreciation night for the Dallas Stars NHL team.  Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007.  He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries.  He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013.  Dallas, TX.  USA.  Bobby applauds a soldier recently returned from Afghanistan during a Dallas Stars hockey game.   Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007.  He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries.  He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2012.  Dallas, TX.  USA.  Bobby in a Motel 6 in Dallas.  Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007.  He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries.  He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013. Humble, TX. USA. Bobby steps out of his room to take a swim at a Motel 6 after visiting the father of Rodney McCandless. Rodney was killed in the IED explosion that injured Bobby. For years McCandless's family didn't know that anyone had survived the attack until Bobby was able to reach them by Facebook. It was their first meeting and Bobby wanted to pay his respects. Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries. He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
2013. Humble, TX. USA. Bobby swims at a Motel 6 after visiting the father of Rodney McCandless. Rodney was killed in the IED explosion that injured Bobby. For years McCandless's family didn't know that anyone had survived the attack until Bobby was able to reach them by Facebook. It was their first meeting and Bobby wanted to pay his respects.Bobby Henline, 41, veteran of four tours to Iraq and sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four soldiers in his humvee in Iraq in 2007. He is now a standup comedian launching a new career with a routine built around his injuries. He received burns over 38% of his body in the blast.
Bobby Henline, 41, is a veteran of four tours to Iraq and the sole survivor of an IED blast that killed the other four s
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Peter van Agtmael—Magnum for TIME
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From the Battlefield to the Comedy Stage: Healing Bobby Henline

Nov 10, 2013

“I had a good time in Iraq, but that last tour was a real blast. It took me four tours to realize my lucky number is 3.”

—Bobby Henline

This essay is one part of our feature on Bobby Henline. See Red Border Films’ full documentary on his story at TIME.com/RedBorder

On April 7, 2007, three weeks after Bobby Henline arrived in Iraq for his fourth tour, his humvee was blown up. The four soldiers with him were killed. Henline was the sole survivor of the blast from the improvised explosive device, but he was only so much luckier: bones in his face fractured, burns covered close to 40% of his body, and his left hand later had to be amputated. He spent two weeks in a coma.

The early months of recovery were a blur. He put nurses in headlocks and sang, over and over again, “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

Returning home was even harder. Henline, now 42, and his wife of 20 years have three kids. Between his time in Iraq and his six months in the hospital, they had become used to his absence. “They’ve changed, you’ve changed,” Henline says.

At home, Henline realized the extent of his injuries. He didn’t want to be a burden on his family. And every day, he was haunted by the lingering memories of war.

“You have to live with a different mind-set there that you can’t live with here,” he says. “You need to let it go, but it’s so hard to turn off. PTSD takes you back to that place. When you get home, the kids want to jump on you, climb on you, and you feel like, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

Henline prayed for God to take him in his sleep.“You get used to getting stared at and looking at yourself in the mirror. It becomes you. But there are days I don’t want to be stared at . . . Still, I feel sexy. Once you’re cooked, you’re hooked.”

While he was rehabilitating with other wounded soldiers, Henline tried to keep their spirits up by telling them jokes. His therapist kept nagging him to get into stand-up comedy, and in 2009 he finally relented, trying his hand at an open-mike night. It was a flop, but Henline loved it.

Finally, here was a space where he could acknowledge the first thing people notice when they see him, where he didn’t have to avoid talking about the experience that changed his life. So he kept telling jokes.

“On the Fourth of July I always go to a fireworks stand. I run up real excited and ask them, ‘Can you give me the same stuff as last year? It was great!’ ”

Another favorite: “In about 10 years I can go to my roast precooked.”

Henline started providing comic relief for other burn survivors, greeting new patients at the Brooke Army Medical Center near San Antonio and regularly visiting a 12-year-old who had been burned as a toddler and had undergone dozens of horribly painful skin-graft surgeries. An atheist before the explosion, Henline has come to believe in some sort of higher power. Faith — in a common energy rather than a specific religion — sustained him through his long and difficult recovery. And he credits a vision he had while in the coma with steering him toward comedy. “I was on a giant iceberg at night,” he recalls. “The stars were out. It was comfortable. I heard voices telling me it was going to be O.K. I thought I was in the judgment room, and it was God telling me I was going to go back — that I had a mission, but it would be on his terms.”

Watch as Henline narrates personal photographs from before and after his deployment:

“The skin on my scalp burned off, so the doctors replaced it with my stomach. When I eat too much I get headaches.”

Every comedian is trying to get a laugh, and Henline is no different. But he has a second aim, one that can offer an extra layer of meaning this Veterans Day. More than 51,000 troops were wounded in action during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense reports. And not every scar is physical. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD, 11% to 20% of veterans of those conflicts have experienced post traumatic stress disorder.

“What I want to do,” Henline says, “is to help more people than the guy that blew me up can hurt.”

Peter van Agtmael is a conflict photographer and member of Magnum.

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