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Legendary veteran known as ‘Hot Dog Guy’ dies at 60

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An Air Force veteran who became legendary for his appearance on a promotional poster died last week.

Robin Williams, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant, died March 14 at the age of 60 of a heart attack, according to an online obituary for the veteran.

Williams, who was born in London, England, and attended high school in Miami, Florida, enlisted in the Air Force in 1983 and served until retirement.

WWII GHOST ARMY WHO DUPED NAZIS IN SECRET MISSION WILL RECEIVE CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL

Photo of "Hot Dog Guy"

Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Robin Lawrence Williams died March 14, 2024. (Army and Air Force Exchange Service)

According to a profile of Williams published by Task & Purpose, the longtime Air Force veteran had a distinguished career that saw him respond to multiple natural disasters during his time serving with the Air Force Medical and Public Health Services. He also deployed as the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Air Force Forces Public Health Manager in 2009, overseeing public health operations for 14 medical treatment centers for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Task & Purpose reported.

In 2004, Williams was selected to serve as the Food and Drug Safety and Defense Office director for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), overseeing over 13,000 AAFES food centers and 10 distribution plants, according to Task & Purpose.

It was during his time with AAFES Williams was the subject of the now infamous photo that spawned his eventual nickname as the “AAFES Hot Dog Guy.”

Taken in 2004, the picture features Williams enthusiastically preparing to eat a hot dog and soda. The photo, taken during the rollout of new self-serve roller grills at AAFES gas stations known as “shoppettes,” would eventually be used on promotional posters at AAFES sites worldwide.

An AAFES store

Army Air Force Exchange Service store (Army and Air Force Exchange Service)

CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL SOUGHT FOR WWII GHOST ARMY THAT DUPED NAZIS

“Being new to working in the retail business environment, the only thing I could think of was, ‘Oh, they just want some pictures for the restaurant upstairs in the building. Why not? This should be fun,’” Williams recounted in an internal AAFES publication in a 2022 story about the origin of the photo. 

“At the time, I completely forgot about how global the Exchange was and (was) also oblivious to the potential use of images for broader marketing.”

As his picture started to pop up around the world, Williams began getting calls from friends wondering if it was him in the picture.

“That’s when everything started to snowball,” Williams said. “I started getting calls from friends in the military saying, ‘Is that what you do at the Exchange? Take pictures and eat hot dogs?’”

An AAFES gas station

The Fort McCoy Exchange is shown Jan. 14, 2021, at Fort McCoy, Wis.  (U.S. Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, Public Affairs Office, Fort McCoy, Wis.)

Williams would continue to serve his country after retirement, his obituary noted, going on to become a senior program manager at AAFES HQ in Texas.

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“His commitment to duty, unwavering leadership, and compassion left an unforgettable mark on all who had the privilege of serving alongside him,” his obituary states.

“Beyond his military career, Robin was a man of many talents and passions. His love for music, particularly the soulful rhythms of reggae, was a defining aspect of his life, evident to all who knew him. He shared his gift as a DJ across the world, whether spinning records or orchestrating playlists, to use music as a conduit for joy, unity, and cultural celebration.”

Williams is survived by his wife, Jackie, and his children and grandchildren, the obituary said, noting he is also survived by “a host of friends and admirers around the world.”

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