Erik Stolhanske flew to Washington, D.C., from Minnesota, making time during his busy speaking tour to visit injured service members at Walter Reed Hospital. Erik—best known for his role as the state trooper rookie, “Rabbit,” in the comedy classic Super Troopers—travels around the country, talking about the challenges he’s overcome as an amputee and once down-and-out comedian.
This summer, during our Memorial Day lake retreat, Erik gave an inspirational presentation and hung out with the wounded troops for a couple of days, forming memorable relationships and providing lots of opportunities for laughter. After that fine holiday, he wanted the chance to meet other military heroes, and thus the quick trip out to Walter Reed.
Freedom Alliance team member Tim Strickler escorted Erik to the hospital, going first to the Warrior Café at Building 62. Army Specialist Will, a fellow amputee, ran to meet him. Will eagerly told Erik about finishing the Army ten-miler on a prosthetic the weekend before.
Erik met with other Marines and their family members. He listened to their stories, signed copies of Super Troopers, and gave all involved a memory not to be forgotten.
Besides the prosthetic leg he wears, Erik also had in common with the soldiers his passion for sports. As a Minnesota Wilds fan, he got along with Earl, a Pennsylvania Guardsman, who is a member of the Philadelphia Flyers sled hockey team. The two bemoaned the NHL lockout, but chatted up their favorite hockey heroes.
After several hours in the café, Erik and Tim made their way to 4 East in Building 10 to visit Staff Sergeant Jason. Jason was given a two-percent survival prognosis on account of his injuries. While working to diffuse an explosive in 2010, Jason stepped on an IED. Saving the lives of his fellow Marines, he took the brunt of the blast, which blew off his legs and shattered his pelvis in five places.
As credit to his tenacious will, Jason lives to tell about it.
He is currently in-patient at Walter Reed, recovering from a 12-and-a-half hour surgery to remove calcified bone as a result of his amputations. But for all that, Jason’s humor is quite intact. He and Erik bonded instantly.
Jason talked about his two young daughters, two and four, who are just as plucky as their Marine dad. Delighting Erik further, he subtly threw Super Troopers quotes into the conversation, showing off his own expert sense of comic timing.
Leaving the hospital, Tim took Erik to the Rock Bottom Pub in Bethesda for dinner and Thursday-night football with a few military friends. Specialist Will came along, and they were met by Marine Sergeants Herman, Will, and Kyle.
The Minnesota Vikings lost that night, but the team at Freedom Alliance was reminded how fortunate we are to have this big-hearted, approachable celebrity as our friend.