By James K. Sanborn - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Mar 16, 2010 8:58:09 EDT
R. Lee Ermey made his reputation using words and expletives as blunt-force instruments as a drill instructor in the iconic movie “Full Metal Jacket.”
And 23 years after the movie’s release, the retired gunnery sergeant is still not mincing words in mounting a fight to change the name of the 212-year-old Navy Department to the “Department of the Navy and Marine Corps.”
In Washington to beat the war drum for that cause alongside members of the Marine Corps League and Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., “The Gunny” laid out in plain talk why the Corps deserves equal billing with the Navy. And in an exclusive interview, he also spat out his views on gays serving openly, tattoos, rules of engagement and more.
Q. You are an avid supporter of House Resolution 24, which calls for renaming the Navy Department to include a reference to the Marine Corps. Why is this important to you?
A. When we die, when mama and dada get that letter of condolence, it would be kind of nice if the Marine Corps was mentioned. Just change the letterhead. What’s the harm in that?
Q. What about those who object on the grounds that doing so will be too expensive?
A. Just go ahead and use up whatever [stationery] you’ve already got — then buy more with the “Marine Corps” on it.
Here we are spending trillions of G-- damn dollars on health care, but when you want to change letterhead on a piece of paper, they get all uppity about how much it is going to cost.
These young men and women are fighting and losing their lives for this country. We aren’t asking for our own department. We are reasonable people. We are just asking for an honorable mention.
Q. What are your thoughts on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and recent efforts to end the ban on open service by gays and lesbians?
A. I don’t have a problem with “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It works. Now all of a sudden, this illustrious leader of America decided he wants to put openly gay people in the military. But where are they going to live and take showers, and which bathrooms are they going to use?
I liken it to putting me in the woman Marine barracks. I would have a great time, but I don’t think they would like it very much.
If I’m taking a shower in an open shower bay, the last thing I want is some guy looking at me having sexual fantasies.
I think everybody in this country should have equal rights, but I don’t think we should infringe on someone else’s to give another person more.
There is no problem serving alongside [gays] in combat.
I’ve never had a problem with that. The only problems I see are social.
Q. You served in Vietnam. What do you think about the rules of engagement today in Afghanistan?
A. We lost Vietnam because a bunch of people in Congress who had never been in the military or never experienced war were calling the shots.
In Vietnam, we couldn’t fire our rifles unless we were fired upon. That seems like chicken s--- because you might not get your turn.
Under this administration, after a firefight, it seems like we just about have to put up yellow tape, conduct forensics and collect shell casings like a crime scene.
It’s gotten to the point where a young man is afraid to shoot his rifle in self-defense because he might be brought up on murder charges. I think we should be above that. We should have amnesty. Higher-ups in Washington have amnesty. How about the poor warrior in the field just trying to do his job?
Q. The Marine Corps recently passed more stringent tattoo regulations. Any thoughts?
A. I think it’s ridiculous, totally ridiculous — borderline silly.
I challenge anybody who is making these decisions to prove to me that a Marine, because he has tattoos, is unable to fight.
Q. Some Marine leaders make the argument that these regs strive to maintain professional appearance.
A. Samurai warriors had tattoos, and they seemed to be pretty honorable people.
I’ve got three tattoos on my forearm. They’ve been there for 100 years, and I’ve never noticed them hindering me. For sailors and Marines, they are a log of where you have been.
Q. Some people might like to see you run for office. Do you have any political ambitions?
A. No. This old man has too many skeletons in the closet. I frequented a few too many whorehouses, tattoo parlors and places of ill repute in my time. Boy, could they have a ball with me, digging up bones.
I’ll just keep doing what I do and get involved if I see there is a need.