Dear Mr. Williams – Thank You for Your Service

Shannon Collins (left), shares an embrace with Robin Williams during his USO tour at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in 2002.

Shannon Collins (left), shares an embrace with Robin Williams during his USO tour at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in 2002. (Courtesy photo)

When people think of service members, they think of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who wear the uniform and fight for our freedom. However, there are others who serve in a different way, by keeping the morale of those service members high. Robin Williams, who tragically took his own life yesterday, was one of those people and he will be greatly missed by the millions who he touched.

Shannon Collins, a guest blogger for DoD News, shares her story of her time with Williams.

A quick smile, warm eyes, a bear hug, “nano, nano,” these are what I remember most about the wonderful day I spent with one of my childhood heroes, Robin Williams, when I was at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in 2002.

He had come out on one of his many USO tours to thank us troops for our service during Operation NORTHERN WATCH. I was an Air Force Reserve staff sergeant public affairs specialist and my job was to cover him touring the base, meeting the service members, signing autographs and then covering his performance via photos and a story for our base newspaper.

Since I grew up on “Mork and Mindy” and his many other movies and shows, I was a ball of energy and prayed he was funny in person. He didn’t let me down. He was very genuine. He gave me a big bear hug and as he greeted each service member throughout the day, he stopped, looked each person in the eye, paused, shook his or her hand and said, “Thank you for your service.”

During the autograph and photo session, the original plan was for him to sign these official USO photos of him but he signed whatever people brought him and signed and took photos long after the schedule allowed. That was just his personality.

I am honored to have met him and to have spent one joyful day with him, and my heart goes out to his family and friends. May his wonderful spirit continue live on within the body of work he has left behind for us to remember him.

You can read additional comments on the passing of Williams at Defense.gov including a message from Secretary Hagel and a story from Jim Garamone.

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  • CeeJayVA

    Let me get this straight – SECDEF and POTUS won’t send condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide once they are stateside….but SECDEF will take the time to do a press release for an actor who commits suicide?!?