The following story is about my chance
meeting with one of my all time heoes. If you have ever seen
Full Metal Jacket, you will never forget R. Lee Ermey
as the scathing DI that, in his own words to me, "ripped them
a new asshole," speaking of the actors portraying Marine Corps
recruits bound for Vietnam.
I was a MECEP student at the University of Washington which
meant that I was an active duty Sergeant going to college in
order to earn a degree and subsequently a commission as a Marine
Corps officer. I was working part time as a security guard for
the Pavilion and stadium at the university.
This particular day, I was a bit worried because I had not
one but two finals the next day and I was looking forward to
a quiet night to get some last minute studying done. Little
did I know, my afternoon would be so much different than I expected.
As part of my rounds, I walked through the famed tunnel
where the Washington Huskies come exploding out of to the heart-pounding
screams of 85,000+ maniacal fans every Saturday morning during
football season. But this day, I noticed something different.
I was not told that anything was going on that day so you can
imagine my surprise when I noticed that the tunnel was blocked
off by alternating partitions painted a baby blue color. I also
noticed a few people sitting down along the wall dressed in
some rather strange clothing. Being in college, this did not
strike me as too strange but I decided to investigate.
As I weaved in and out of the partitions, I finally came
through to the tunnel entrance to find that there were several
hundred people and a camera crew on the field. Everyone was
dressed in 70s clothing and the entrance to the tunnel had been
painted to look different: a little Hollywood magic.
As I am standing there in total confusion, I hear "Hey SGT
Grose" from a part of the track by the stadium seats. I walk
over, not recognizing anyone until one of the Marines that is
stationed at the I&I staff at Fort Lewis catches my eye.
I went over to him to ask him what was going on and I find out
that they are filming a movie set in the 70s Olympics. They
used Marines for the parts of the Olympic judges because our
haircuts match the style of the conservative judges at the time.
Then my friend points over to and asks if I recognize an actor
As I look over, I instantly recognize R. Lee Ermey and my
heart leaps to my throat. Not 20 yards away, there he was talking
to another actor. I also saw Ed O'neal (Al Bundy from Married
With Children) but that did not matter to me. The man, the
legend was standing right there and I knew that I had to go
over and say something to him.
I had once gone to the library before the internet became
big and researched this man. I read every article I could find
on him and knew that he had been a drill instructor as a Corporal
during Vietnam. I knew a few other things I wanted to ask him
about and felt compelled to relay my story to him of how he
had impacted my life. I had written to him while I was in the
Gulf War but to no avail. I was not about to let this opportunity
slip through my fingers. Never being too shy and knowing my
"in" with him was the fact that we were both Marines, I walked
right up to him and waited patiently while he finished his conversation
with his friend. I stood there unbelieving that I was looking
at Gunnery Sergeant Hartman who would glance over at me wondering
who I was as he listened to the gentlemen who was talking to
him. I had a badge and a walkie-talkie so, obviously, I was
authorized to be there (A fact I often took advantage of: if
you look official, no one questions you).
After he finished listening, he turned to me and I thrust
out my hand and introduced myself in one long breath. I knew
once he found out that I was a Marine, it would be OK. He seemed
genuinely pleased that I wanted to talk to him and I was lucky
enough to catch him between takes so we had about 1/2 hour to
talk. Here are some of the stories he told me and, of course,
they all have to do with Full Metal Jacket.