Wednesday, August 13, 2008

R. Lee Ermey

An English gentleman in the legal profession recently sent me a YouTube video of the speech R. Lee Ermey gives as Senior Drill Instructor Hartman greeting his recruits in Full Metal Jacket. (Since that gentleman, Glynn, is good enough to correspond with me, I take it as a point of pride that I will keep him well supplied with plenty of *true* stories good enough to share with his buddies at the pub.) You can view the video for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JubGpKHVk7U

Full Metal Jacket is certainly a famous movie. As for its accuracy, I will defer to two very fine gentlemen I know who have served as Senior Drill Instructors in the United States Marine Corps. (OK, OK, I'll admit--I'm bragging here: who else knows two USMC senior drill instructors? Besides these two men, of course.) Now, I'll share something some people might find hard to believe: R. Lee Ermey is a friend of a friend of mine. When I first moved to Bethel, Alaska, all kinds of people asked me if life up there bore any resemblance to the TV show Northern Exposure. My response was that while the fictional Cicely, Alaska was in set in forested Alaska, and Bethel is in Tundra Country, there were a few similarities. For example, the protagonist of Northern Exposure was a Jewish doctor from New York, doing time up north to pay off his student loans. Bethel, Alaska, has the largest hospital for over 350 miles in any direction (Alaska is a VERY big place) and one of the doctors I met was a Jewish gentleman from New York paying off his student loans.

Another key character in Northern Exposure is Barry Corbin's character of Maurice Minnifield, a retired Marine fighter pilot, astronaut, and business tycoon. Though he's greying at the temples, he's still a very formidable figure. In Bethel, we had Sergeant Major Joel Bowles, a retired 30-year Marine, former small-town police chief, business tycoon, and proud owner of a fishing boat called the 'Semper Fi.' He didn't look anything like Barry Corbin, but he had an amazing supply of great stories. (It should be noted that while his stories are fantastic, as far as I know, he has never told a fib-not even once-in the seven years I've known him.)

One of the stories he told me (and I have no reason to disbelieve it) was that he and R. Lee Ermey served in the same unit and were drinking buddies. When I talked with Sergeant Major Bowles, I learned a great deal. For example, anyone who has seen Full Metal Jacket, or watched Louis Gossett Jr. in An Officer and a Gentleman might conclude that DIs are nothing but screaming ogres. That is not the case. Sgt. Maj. Bowles told me that once he had a recruit who, after a few days in boot camp, started wetting the bed. This, of course, is unacceptable. So he sent that recruit to medical to see if there was a medical problem. Word came back: no problem at all. The docs figured the guy was probably faking it to get a medical discharge. Does anybody want to guess how the DI solved that problem? (Play the Jeopardy theme song through a couple of times. OK time's up, pencils down) Sgt. Maj. Bowles, said, "OK, recruit. Maybe you need some elevation. Maybe you're having a reaction to that mattress and blanket."

So he told that recruit to turn in his mattress and blanket and had him sleep on the top bunk- and then ordered the biggest, nastiest guy in the recruit company to sleep in the bunk beneath him. Well, glory be, that very night that recruit's bladder problem was CURED and never returned!

Moral of story: just everybody knows that United States Marines have a very well-deserved reputation for being extremely tough guys, but relatively few people know that Marines (in my experience, especially the senior enlisteds) are frequently very intelligent and insightful as well. Which is as it should be. I now get to use one of my favorite quotations, from the British General Major General Sir William Butler: 'Any city that draws a line between its scholars and its warriors, will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.'

So here's a big shoutout to all our scholar warriors and warrior scholars!

Kent

3 comments:

chona said...

hey i like ur blog especially in ur account of Sgt. Major Joel Bowles story. i think he is a nice and very honorable man, pls if u see him give him my regards and tell him i want to meet him.

chona said...

i like ur blog especially on the account of Sgt. Major Joel Bowles story. i think he is a great man and very honorable. if u happen to see him pls give my regards to him. tell him i want to meet him.

divina jordan said...

I was got a news yesterday that ret marine joel thomas bowles passed away?