“To my little brother, Bob - you have got more talent in your little finger than I have got in my whole body. You have got dreams - chase them!”
Poignant words written by a soldier to his little brother, also a soldier, as they went off to war. Words that Rob Kugler has taken to heart, from a man he deeply admired.
Rob, the son of Kathy Kugler, grew up in Broken Bow and graduated from Broken Bow High School, before going off to serve his country as a U.S. Marine. He followed in big brother Mike Doheny’s, footsteps. Mike, too, was a Marine.
Rob says prior to Mike’s first deployment he gave his younger brother a letter - just in case he didn’t come home. Naturally, Rob hoped he would never have to open that letter. But, unfortunately, he did.
After serving eight years in the Marines, Mike became a private security contractor. Rob was deployed to Iraq when his brother, working as a civilian security contractor for the Army Corps of Engineers, was killed during an improvised explosive device attack southeast of Baghdad. Rob escorted his brother‘s body home to Broken Bow, and brought the letter with him.
In an interview with Bob Plante on the CBS News program Washington Unplugged, Rob describes how Mike’s letter contained a little “snipit” for each family member - including the encouraging words of advice to Rob to chase his dream.
“It hit me pretty hard,” says Rob. “At the same time it was a huge emotional push for me.”
The dream Mike was referring to is Rob’s desire to be an entertainer. While he has long had aspirations of becoming an actor, Rob’s real passion lies in comedy - stand up comedy to be exact.
So, when he got out of the military Oct. 30, 2009, he and his wife moved to Los Angeles, where Rob could pursue his dream. He began taking acting classes and studying with the Groundlings Theater. It didn’t take long for him to get noticed.
The Department of Veterans Affairs was working on a multimillion dollar advertising campaign designed to encourage more military veterans to enroll for government benefits and services. When they heard Rob’s story, the VA knew he was a perfect fit for the ad campaign they had in mind.
The new ad takes a “big brother” approach, reminding veterans of the importance of using the benefits available to them. The ad campaign began with a TV spot airing in the six media markets where most service members returning home from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom first arrive: El Paso, Texas; Norfolk, Virg.; Raleigh, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Seattle, Wash., and Watertown, N.Y.
“Welcome home! You’ve served your country,” Marine Staff Sgt. Kugler says in the ad. “Now that you’ve completed your service, you’ve got lots of opportunities for your future. But health comes first. Sign up for health care at your nearest VA.”
The first wave of the multiyear ad campaign will cost the VA about $5 million, and targeted recent vets. A second ad will start airing soon and the department plans to buy time during national telecasts of the Country Music Awards and college bowl games. These ads will focus more on older vets.
It might be interesting to note that only about 8 million of the nation’s 23 million veterans use VA benefits and healthcare services.
“I think there could be somewhat of a stigma as far as maybe thinking that they wouldn’t get the benefits or they don’t want to be portrayed as weak,” Rob says referring to the low number of vets seeking VA benefits.
These new TV and Internet advertisements are designed to encourage more vets to sign up, and Rob says he is proud to be part of that effort.
These ad campaigns have been a stepping stone for Rob in pursuing his career. He has also done some voice over work and has appeared in a couple of short films, “Cold Blooded” and “Evasion”. This past June Rob had his first big movie experience; he was an extra dressed in his Marine uniform cammies on the movie Transformers 3.
Rob is currently working with USC students in a directing class, and says he loves (“with a capital L”) working with the students.
“The work for the USC students is free, but I can’t put a value on the experience, feedback and relationships that I get from working with them!”, says Rob. “I know that it takes an enormous amount of work to be successful in this industry, and I’m willing to put in that work.”
As for comedy, Rob says he has done a couple of open mike nights, and has been asked to do a show. He is working on putting together material for that.
Rob says he is taking a break for about three weeks “to make some steady money for the holidays.” He recently flew to Milwaukee where he learned all about the new X-Box Kinect system, and will be visiting Burger King stores in the L.A. area throughout the month of November demoing the new system.
“I will continue to go to as many auditions as I can through, so I can get right back in the swing of things in December,” says Rob.
Rob says it was his brother’s encouragement that was the final push for him to go after what he wanted. Now he wants to pass that on to others.
“I’ve had a little feedback from people saying mine is an inspirational story,” says Rob. “So if I can inspire others to take their dreams seriously and put in the effort to make them become a reality - I’m all for it!”
You can follow Rob on his website, Robkugler.com. Links to his Facebook actors page and his voice over clips can also be found on that site.