As Susan Schneider told a crowd of troops Saturday, "I'm here with you tonight because of my husband's heart."
Her legendary late husband, Robin Williams, was posthumously being awarded the 2016 Angel Harvey Heart of a Patriot Award by the USO of Chicago on the day that marked what would have been the couple's fifth anniversary. The servicemen and women were honoring the legendary comedian in his hometown for his commitment to entertaining thousands of troops throughout his career—a duty she said Robin got more out of "than you will ever know."
"Robin absolutely had the heart of a patriot. I cannot think of a more fitting award for him, nor one that he would be more proud to receive, especially in the presence of all of you," she began her emotional remarks. "Robin was also a warrior, and like so many of our finest servicemen and women, he had battles to face."
The most prominent battle for the actor was Lewy Body Dementia, which Williams was diagnosed with after his suicide in 2014. "The devastation on Robin's brain from the Lewy bodies, was one of the worst cases medical professionals have ever seen. Yet throughout all of this, his heart remained strong," Schneider said. "He loved his time overseas with the troops. He loved camouflage, gear and all things military. And, he took seriously the idea of 'no man left behind.' When he was signing autographs—always sure to touch everyone's heart with a few words, a handshake or a signature."
The widow likened Williams' brain disease battle to those troops face long after they leave war. "Whether it's Traumatic Brain Injury, Chronic Pain, PTSD, or depression—they keep fighting. Brave enough to bear the truth of exactly how our brains and spirits get wounded. Meanwhile their caregivers and loved ones are there in the battle with them, sustaining their own injuries," she explained.
As his partner, Schneider has since publicly championed on behalf of her husband's illness, working passionately to raise awareness and research for the disease. "Robin may have lost his battle here against LBD. But he did not lose the war. No, he's not done yet," she declared. "The way I see it, he has brought the light of dawn to a new mission for all of us. That mission is to eradicate brain disease."
What better day to discuss that mission than on their wedding anniversary. "The love my husband and I have shared has been my beacon and my guide," she said. "Today is your 75th anniversary. Today, October 22nd, is Robin and my wedding anniversary too, and there's no place I would rather be."
While Aug. 11 marked the second year of her beloved's death, Susan can still sense him with her. "It feels like Robin wanted me here on this day to celebrate with all of you, with our best man Bobcat Goldthwait, and with our maid of honor Jean Horn," she said. "I also think my honey may have wanted me to put on a pretty dress and to just feel the love in this room tonight."