The United States Air Force Basic Military Training Instructors held their annual Convention at Lackland AFB this past 26th, 27th and 28th of October. It was absolutely wonderful to see all the T.I.s from my past get together with the T.I.s of today. Believe me when I tell you... the stories were flying!
On the morning of the 28th, I received a phone call from Gunny R. Lee Ermey. He was in Taylor, Texas filming a new movie. He asked me if their was anything going on with the T.I.s that night and I told him the Blue Rope Ball would be in full swing. For those of you who do not know what an Air Force "Blue Rope" is, well, let me fill you in. T.I.s who wear the coveted blue rope around the crown of their campaign hats means they are "Master" Military Training Instructors. Only ten percent of the entire Instructor Corps are awarded this distinction.
Anyway, Gunny told me he would be getting off the movie set around 7:30PM and he would drive down to my apartment and we would then go to the Ball. I knew he would be exhausted by the time he finished with his work so my wife and I drove up to Taylor (150 miles from San Antonio) to pick up the Gunny. He was completely exhausted, however, he was looking forward to meeting some Air Force Drill instructors.
So, off we went headed back to San Antonio. We got to the Blue Rope Ball late, close to 10:30pm. But when we walked into that large room and all those T.I.s saw the Gunny, the entire room just exploded into cheers and applause! The Gunny came to life when he saw the joy and pride in the faces of all those T.I.s and their families. He was going to do anything and everything he could possibly do to make his visit memorable...and he did just that.
The Gunny shook hands, signed autographs and took pictures with every-single-person in that room. He told me he refused to leave until he had met with every T.I. that was there. Some people dialed a family member on their cell phones and Gunny would speak with them. He never denied a single individual a request that night.About 12:45AM, we had to call it quits.
I could tell the Gunny was tired and we left for our apartment. Once there, we fixed him some chow and we began to talk. About 2:00AM, my wife called it quits and hit the rack. As tired as the Gunny was, he desired to continue our conversation.We talked about my last book, TUFFY'S HEROES, and he expressed to me how much he enjoyed reading my book.
Many of the things about the book we had already spoke about months earlier when he had called me at home. He told me how much he loved the way I managed to instill so much humor into a story about Military basic training. There were certain characters within the book he loved, such as Major Wok, and a basic trainee named, Plopper. The one point he made about Airman Basic Plopper, involved a little thing within the story-line of Tuffy's Heroes when I command Airman Basic Plopper to, "grow two inches" prior to graduating basic training.
He loved the concept of what I was actually inferring to this basic Airman and he tied it into what his character, Gunny Hartman, did to Private Pyle in his great film, Full Metal Jacket. Gunny made the comment to me, "...only a drill instuctor would really understand that." Finally, at 2:45AM, we called it quits and hit the rack.
I woke him up early the following morning and we started in on where we left off earlier that morning. He liked the TUFFY'S HEROES poster hanging on our living room wall. The poster was designed by my wife. So, he had us take a picture while he stood beside the poster. I was not aware, readers, that Gunny would render a touch of humor to the photo by giving me the horns!!
At 10:30AM, we headed out for the Austin, Texas airport. The Gunny had a 1:00 flight to D.C..All-in-all, readers, having Gunny with us for those few days will go down in MY history book as truely outstanding!
Mr. R. Lee Ermey is a true patriot and he cannot say enough about our Armed Forces personnel. He spends a great deal of his time visiting military personnel based all over the world and does all he can to motivate these wonderful people, and he does this WITHOUT any publicity! And quite often, he does all this at his own expense. With the exception of when he is working for the History Channel on location, when the Gunny visits a military base to meet the troops and help motivate them, he does so WITHOUT a publicist or cameraman with him. He does not charge the base an "appearance fee" or an hourly rate. He does all this on his own dime for the troops!
I read an article on the internet about the Gunny and if I remember correctly, it was entitled: "Hey! There's that guy!" It was a pretty good article but the point I'm attempting to make here is simple, almost nobody knows who R. Lee Ermey is. He's probably made over 70 films, not including all the TV movies he's worked on. He's the host of MAIL CALL, the highest rated series on the History channel but unless you mention Full Metal Jacket, the average individual will not recognize his name. And that's a shame as far as I'm concerned because of all the great things he does for Armed Forces Personnel without asking for the recognition or "press time".
Well fellow readers, the man's name is retired Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey, one of the finest human beings I've ever had the pleasure to meet. And to think, one day a year ago, on the 28th of December, he took the time to pick up his phone and call someone he never met just to tell that person how much he enjoyed reading their book. That someone was me. He called me to praise TUFFY'S HEROES and that, my fellow readers, was the shock of my lifetime!
Let's face the truth here, movie stars just DON'T call their fans...except for Gunny Ermey.So all of you out there, military, prior military, civilian or patriot, if you want a great read, give my new book a shot. You won't regret it! And more importantly, never forget what a great man the Gunny is and all that he does for our military personnel! Catch him on the number one rated series on the History Channel, MAIL CALL.