Robin Williams Created Lasting Moments on 2007 USO Tour

Comedian Robin Williams greets troops during a 2007 USO Chairman's Holiday Tour stop at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, on Dec. 17, 2007. Photo by Chad J. McNeeley/Courtesy of the Department of Defense

Comedian Robin Williams greets troops during a 2007 USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour stop at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, on Dec. 17, 2007. Photo by Chad J. McNeeley/Courtesy of the Department of Defense

Robin Williams’ personality is too big to fit into one story.

Here are two moments from the 2007 USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour we couldn’t fit into yesterday’s tribute to Williams’ service to the military.

‘You Gave Me Yours, I’ll Give You Mine’

The December 2007 tour – which also included Kid Rock, comedian Lewis Black, cyclist Lance Armstrong, Miss USA 2007 Rachel Smith, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan and was led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen – was a bit of a rough ride. There were travel delays and crazy weather – everything you’d expect when hopping in and out of remote locations in war zones.

At one point on the tour, Williams lost his voice.

“We got on a plane and flew to Afghanistan,” said John Hanson, a former USO senior vice president who was on the 2007 tour. “Long flight – got there after the show was supposed to start and the audience had been standing outside in this wet, heavy snow. [Williams] could hardly speak. But he did the show. …

“The next morning … we got on a C-130 with body armor and it was stacked in front of us. … His manager said, ‘Sit next to Robin and whenever he starts talking, tell him to shut up cause he needs his voice this afternoon.’ …

“For some reason, we had to give up our body armor. These troops were coming on and offloading it. It was either a soldier or an airman – I don’t remember – but he said ‘Mr. Williams, I didn’t get to see your show last night, but thank you for coming. It means a lot to us.’ And Robin nodded. And the guy came back on later and said ‘You know, I’ve had this for a while and it’s protected me,’ and he pulled off a St. Christopher medal. And Robin [said] ‘I can’t take that.’

“[And the service member said] ‘It’s done well for me, please take it,’ and he took a couple of the [body armor] vests and walked off. So Robin sat there and he looked at it, and he looked at his manager and me and was puzzled [and] moved.

“The guy came back on to get the last batch of [body armor], and Williams said ‘Wait, you gave me yours,’ and unbuttoned his shirt and pulled out this huge silver cross and said ‘I’ll give you mine.’

“And the [service member] said ‘I can’t take this.’ And [Williams] said ‘if you don’t take that, I won’t take this.’ And so the guy walked off with it.”

Mork at War

Part of the 2007 Chairman’s tour involved officially opening the USO center at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, with some peculiar furniture.

“When we walked in, in the computer room, there was a gaming chair,” Hanson said. “It was a big, white plastic oval. Looked like a gigantic egg.

“And [Williams] ran across, jumped in it and spun around. And it was a weird cultural reference for a lot of the young guys because they didn’t really quite get it.

“And [Williams] said ‘I better stop this [or somebody’s going to get the idea for a TV series.’”

(For everyone under the age of 40, Williams’ breakout role on “Mork and Mindy” – a sitcom that ran from 1978 to 1982 where he played an alien named Mork who came to Earth in an egg-shaped spaceship.)

9 thoughts on “Robin Williams Created Lasting Moments on 2007 USO Tour

  1. Lord please receive your child Robin Williams with open arms. He shared love and good will to everyone he met.

  2. Robin was such a dear, kind, sweet, gracious human. Oh, my heart is heavy that he didn’t know what a national treasure he was and that he was in such despair. There will never be anyone who comes close to his remarkable talent, heart, charm, warmth, generosity. I wish he had felt more fulfilled. He had the capacity to achieve even more and perhaps he was in need of another purpose? I just wish he could have had faith and patience to give life another try. My heart is so heavy.

  3. he could make me laugh out loud in my empty house, when has that ever happened for you ? i am heartbroken but i also know that Jonathan Winters and Robin have everyone rolling in the isles in Heaven ! lol. to his family and all of us who miss him already- hugs & love

  4. I have never been emotionally or mentally attached to a celebrity’s death as I am to Robin Williams’. I grew up watching him. Mork & Mindy was my favorite TV show in the 80’s and I grew up watching all of his movies. He may not have liked to have made them, but “I” am grateful that he did because the world would not have ever known the extent of his talents if he had not done so. I am the wife of an addict and one who suffers from Bipolar disorder. My husband has highs and lows and speaks at times of not wanting to live. It’s part of the Bipolar disorder. He also gets severely depressed at times. I have read so much about Robin Williams in his passing that, other than his celebrity status, his struggles with addiction and depression hit extremely close to home. At times I thought I was reading about my husband. My heart is extremely sad, even a bit distraught, to know that such a great person, who brought so much love, joy, happiness and “peace” to so many, many people in their times of need, felt like he had no other out of his misery than to take his life. My heart just aches for him as a person, his wife as a wife and partner and his children as the ones who will be left to carry on without having their “incredibly amazing” father to share the rest of their milestones with. As the granddaughter and daughter of servicemen: my grandfather-Ret. Major Richard T. Russell, Sr, and my father-Capt Richard T. Russell, Jr, I so very thankful for people like Robin Williams who give of their time and talents to provide some sanity, some happy moments and memories, in such hectic, stressful times. Robin Williams was the antidote for our servicemen and women in their times of depression, trials, tribulations and loneliness, when they needed a piece of home. He was the epitome of what having true character was all about and he cared so much for others than he appeared to have cared about himself. He indeed gave so much to so many, many people and will never known the love, respect and admiration that abounds within others for all that he gave and did for them. THANK YOU to our servicemen and women for serving this country and making the sacrifices that you make on a daily basis and THANK YOU, Robin Williams, for being so open about your struggles and addictions and for bring “us” all so many incredibly amazing, awesome memories and moments and laughs!

    • beautifully written Cindy. i too do not follow or mourn over celebrities, but this one broke my heart. i am also military family and i don’t think even Bob Hope loved our guys and gals like Robin Williams did. it’s so sad he couldn’t feel the level of admiration and love we felt for him in return so that he would have stayed here with us. i know though he and Jonathan Winters have them rolling in the aisles together. there’s an old saying ” if dogs don’t go to Heaven, then i don’t want to either.” well, lets add Robin’s name to that !
      love and hugs to his family and all of us who are grieving his passing.

  5. I stand with millions who loved and admired Robin Williams for most of our lives. None of us will ever forget him. I wish he had trusted us enough to know we would have tried to understand his heartaches and help him get through this dark time in his life. He would never have let anyone go through what he was experiencing without puttting his heart and soul into making one see how loved and needed they were. My heart is broken along with countless others. A man we will never forget.

  6. I was there in Balad and had forgotten about the egg chair until reading this. OMG, we laughed so much! It was awesome and such classic Robin Williams! I watched his show and toured the USO with the group, and had the great opportunity to converse with him. He was funny and humble and for a short time, we were able to put the war on a back-burner, so to speak, and relax and laugh. All because of Robin Williams. Godspeed, Robin and find the rest you deserve.

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