VIEWER VOICE: Meeting hero Robin Williams in a war zone - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

VIEWER VOICE: Meeting hero Robin Williams in a war zone

Marty Ellis meets his hero, Robin Williams in a war zone back in Feb. 2003. (Source: Marty Ellis) Marty Ellis meets his hero, Robin Williams in a war zone back in Feb. 2003. (Source: Marty Ellis)

Montgomery native Marty Ellis grew up in Montgomery in the 1980s and always dreamed of meeting his hero, Robin Williams. He got that chance, as he explains in the article he penned shortly after learning of Williams' death.

WSFA 12 News was contacted by a friend of Ellis' seeking to share his story. With his permission, we're republishing his story, in its entirety, as he told his friend he hopes it will inspire others to tell their heroes how much they are appreciated.

"Robin Williams has always been one of my greatest idols. As a young teen, I remember watching all his standup specials, trying to copy his style, his jokes. I worked hard to build up my cache of wacky, zany voices and accents, as well as an endless supply of celebrity impressions. I was in awe of his zany, manic energy and delivery, his uncanny skills of improvisation; a true master. I wanted to someday be a standup comic, and leave the audience howling with laughter like Robin did.

In my English class at Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery, while most people were writing papers on the importance of strong female role models in modern literature, I was writing about the different styles of comedy, with, you guessed it, Robin being a major source of inspiration. I always dreamed of seeing my idol live, doing what he does best. Little did I know that dream would one day come true, and in one of the most unlikely of places: a war zone.

In February 2003, my Army Reserve unit was activated to be a part of the Iraqi war, or, as it is known in military lingo, Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. After a few months of training and a few more months of playing that wonderful Army game of "Hurry Up and Wait", we were on our way to sunny Kuwait for a 364 day, 365 night stay of fun in the sun.

During our tour, we stayed in Iraq helping to keep the supply trains moving to troops who badly needed them in the north. We left Iraq after about 6-7 months, then headed down to the less stressful and deadly confines of Kuwait. It had been a tough deployment up until that time, and I was seriously looking forward to some down time.

I almost missed the whole show; I didn't catch the flyer in the common area until the day before it was to happen. I had missed several USO shows in Iraq due to working, but this one was a no-brainer -- I had to go. It was a great lineup: a wrestler, a cute model, and a big time TV star at the time.

But the headliner was Robin Williams.

I remember sitting in the audience, giddy with excitement. I was wondering (and a bit worried) if he was going to have to keep it PG-13, because of the whole military thing. He did not disappoint; he was in rare form that night, just as I had always seen him. What a show!

But the excitement didn't end there! After the show, they made an announcement that there would be a Meet and Greet with all the stars. Oh my God! I was going to be able to actually meet my mentor, my idol -- in the flesh!

I honestly don't know or remember what I said to him, but I remember the look on his face. He was smiling, with a look of fatherly pride in his eyes. With a calmness and softness to his voice, he told me to" be careful, Chief" and" thank you" for what I was doing over here. I snapped a picture with him, shook his hand and my time was done. I don't think my feet ever touched the ground on my way back to my warehouse turned barracks that night. I called my folks in Montgomery the very next day with the great news.

That show and chance meeting with one of the most influential people in my life was truly the best thing that came out of my wartime experience. It truly ranks up there with my wedding and the birth of my little girl as one of my most cherished memories. Not many people get to meet their idols, and I feel blessed that I got to make that dream a reality."

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