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Mar-07-2012 02:10printcommentsVideo

There are No Fat Marines

From news media to Clint Eastwood films: accuracy in depicting Marines is dismissed; integrity shattered by illusion.

No fat Marines
This photo was a bad example.

(SALEM) - A few months ago, reporters around the country took up the subject of young Americans being unfit to serve in the military, and that is fine. I raise no question over it... after all we are in the junk-food/TV/video game generation. But the image used by numerous media outlets for this story, is a false representation. it is a fat man in a U.S. Marine uniform and I have news for you, there are no fat Marines.

U.S. Marine on patrol in Anbar, Iraq
2008 photo by Tim King

Larger Marines keep up with all others, and they don't look like the person in this photo.

In the recent wars overseas, particularly Iraq, Marines stand out when viewed among their Army and Navy counterparts. They are more fit by average, and they just carry themselves differently.

There is no shortage of soldiers and sailors; and members of the U.S. Air Force, who are extremely fit and look great in uniform. However it is fair to expect that all are portrayed in a fair light. The use of this image in the given context, seems than a slam from a photo editor who fails to understand Marines.

So many Marines have given so much.

It is a problem that affects the media at large; most journalists who have spent time covering war can review conflict with a heightened degree of accuracy, and those who work near military bases will eventually learn the ropes in many ways, but most people making decisions of this nature, are sitting behind a desk, located nowhere near the military.

During my years in TV news, working often as a news photographer, I used to familiarize the young journalists with as much military knowledge as I could. I realized how essential this was one day, while traveling to the Marine Corps Air Station at Yuma, with a reporter who asked...

    "Hey Tim, what is higher in rank, a corporal or a colonel?"

That honest question was one asked out of genuine interest, and I knew that day that civilian reporters and military stories were a dangerous mix.

Call Marines jaded, broken, intimidating, scarred, and at times overbearing; describe their training as sadistic, their occasional crimes heinous, their marksmanship overly true... fair.

Jim Fontella, Marine Vietnam Vet, friend
of, survived breast cancer
from Camp Lejeune's contaminated water.

Say Marines are many things, be critical, but damn it, don't suggest to members of the public, who for the most part, never see a Marine, that these warriors are running around in an obese state, because it is a big fat lie.

The sacrifices of Marines are just too powerful; the selflessness unmeasurable, the determination unmatched; they deserve better.

The life of Marines is a grueling, physically demanding experience, beyond belief in fact... and every Marine is at all times able to run three miles and pass other physical endurance testing in the form of the famed Marine 'PFT', the official physical fitness test of U.S. Marines.

Every Marine can pick up an M-16 and put a bullet into a man-sized target from 500 meters, which is about 40 meters beyond the rifle's effective range.

Forgive me, but it sucks to watch people of high integrity and accomplishment; U.S. Marines, have their images slaughtered and redrawn by those news outfits and screen hacks who want to make a few bucks off their backs.

Clint Eastwood's Heartbreaking Marine Movie

Of course the worst portrayal of Marines in all time is Clint Eastwood's 'Heartbreak Ridge'. He casts Reconnaissance Marines, the hardest and most fully trained and evolved version of the Marine warrior, as a bunch of miscreants without discipline.

This portrayal of the toughest Marines is so completely untrue and impossible that without question, he and his team either did no research at all, or they learned how things are... and chose to intentionally ignore the factual information, and to dismiss all signs of accuracy.

'Force Recon' Marines are the USMC version of the Navy SEAL or Army Green Beret, they're 'Special Forces' of the highest order.

Clint Eastwood fared better when producing a 2006 film, 'Flags of Our Fathers' about Marines fighting on Iwo Jima in WWII, and raising the flag at Mount Suribachi. It is a tragic story about heroism, government exploitation and alcoholism... depressing but accurate by nearly all accounts, it is the dark side of war and what we now know as PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Mr. Eastwood was accused of not having cast Black Marines in this this film, however he did indeed cast Black Marines, they were in the movie. After a public controversy, Director Spike Lee offered Clint Eastwood a humble apology, for having made the accusation.

Doing it Right

Sgt. Gilbert "Hashmark" Johnson, USMC - First
African-American Montford Point Drill Instructor.
Salute to the Montford Point Marines:
Loyalty, Honor and Courage in the Face of Racism

By Coral Anika Theill

On that note, a few months ago, our writer, Author Coral Anika Theill, wrote the first comprehensive article on the Montford Point Marines, who served in WWII and fought at Iwo Jima. Salute to the Montford Point Marines: Loyalty, Honor and Courage in the Face of Racism, was then published by Leatherneck, the magazine of Marines. The photo to the right has a link to Coral's moving and important article.

So here we are at, where current and former Marines join writers from all walks of life, to have their articles edited and published by me, a renegade ex-Marine; standing up for the image of those who serve and do what so many people could never begin to imagine or understand.

It isn't like we aren't constantly critical of Marine Corps environmental policy; the toxic chemical / water contamination of bases on both the east and west coast; Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and the now-closed Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in California, where I served. We have no mercy for Marine officials who fail to come clean, and we know a lot about it because our writers who take this subject on, and I, were there.

This simply leads to the same conclusion, and it is a point I have made many times; that more military veterans need to enter the media and bring a much-needed presence to the ranks, particularly as the nation is so busy fighting wars, while its politicians root and call for more deadly violence in Iran and Syria. Of course we live in an age where the number of military veterans continues to increase, they need all of the understanding and advocacy they can get.

Media is the bridge... the element in society that can place pressure on problems and correct societal ills, but first people in the mainstream have to care, and they also absolutely must have insight.

The problems described in this article really amount to little more than character assaults; inaccurate portrayals of the Marine Corps, and there are many beyond what I reference here. Anyone willing to portray the military, should be qualified to do so.

In the matter of the image of an obese person in a Marine uniform, the impossible is suggested, putting forth a problem that is nonexistent. That is the last thing anyone needs.

One of Tim King's reports with U.S. Marines, filed from Iraq- summer, 2008

If you want to know what Marines look like, watch the video report on the left that I filed from Iraq in 2008, it is a hard life they live, and this wasn't even the part of Iraq where things were particularly dangerous.

As for the photo, they should have picked from one of the three services that do have their share of fat bodies, as they're ungraciously called in the Marines. I know some may argue that the photo is merely suggestive of an unfit person not being compatible with the uniform, but it still amounts to a gross misinterpretation. How would you like to see that guy in your clothes?

One positive thought on movies and TV shows, is that these days, if Hollywood wants to use Marine resources, they have to go through an LA-based Marine named Michael Hjelmstad, who I first got to know in Iraq's Anbar province when I was covering the war there for He is the Marine Corps Liaison for Hollywood, the industry has to maintain accuracy or they aren't getting past Mike.

So yeah, American kids are out of shape and then there are Marines, I hope the visual media gets it right next time.

Note: We covered the same story when it broke, this is how we presented it: New Report States 75% of Young Americans are Unfit for Military Service

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Tim King in 2008, covering the Iraq War

Tim King: Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for since the new format was launched in December, 2005.

Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 20+ countries and regions.

Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: Visit Tim's Facebook page (

View articles written by Tim King

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

Anonymous August 13, 2016 10:48 am (Pacific time)

Yes there are fat Marines, sorry...

MGySgt Garza October 18, 2012 8:26 am (Pacific time)

I was there in 2007-2008/2009-2010 and this young Devil Dogs patroling in this video make me prond and love everyone of them for keeping us safe while we were there.
I thank the MWSS-274

Tim King: Semper fi Master Gunny!

stephen March 8, 2012 9:59 am (Pacific time)

Bob..I will capitolize the word marines, when the marines figure out they have been lied to..They may be the greatest fighters on the planet, but maybe they should get past the brainwashing and ask "what are we fighting for"? When the marines say that, I will capitolize...

PegP March 7, 2012 8:18 pm (Pacific time)

Thank you for your most accurate article. I am a former Marine who served at Camp Lejeune while the water was contaminated. I could tell horror stories about what the effects of that toxic has had on both myself and my son with whom I was pregnant when I was first stationed at Lejeune. I've always believed that the Marines take care of their own and never leave a "man" behind, but this cover-up showed me otherwise. Shame on the higher-ups who cared more about image than doing what was right for tens of thousands of people. And you're also right about journalists who know nothing about the military then try to write stories on it. I was in an article about the Camp Lejeune water contamination. Not only was it inaccurate in that I was quoted for saying things I'd never said, but I was a sergeant while stationed at Lejeune and the writer had me listed as an officer. He later had to write a retraction. So your article was right on the money on everything.

Tim King: Touche!  Thank you sister, wouldn't it be good if everyone was held to half the standard we were?  I appreciate this very much, Semper fi.

Bob Gallagher March 7, 2012 6:57 pm (Pacific time)

First off, a note to Stephen. Marine is always capitalized. Always.

I am a retired US Navy Command Master Chief. In another life I ran a multi-service training unit. I had students from every branch of service, and the Marines were the clear standouts 100% of the time. They are sharp, disciplined, and operate as a team on every task.
I few times a year I buy a bunch of lottery tickets and drive around town handing them out to people and businesses I like. I always stop at the military recruiting station on Lancaster Drive. Each of the services always respresent extremely well.....but then there are the Marines. It doesn't matter if it is a Pvt right out of bootcamp or a salty old Gunny, they are perfect examples of the greatest military on earth. I dream of the day when a service member wins big on one of my lottery tickets, and if I had a choice, that winner would be a Marine.

DJ: Do you think that Smedley Butler would see the modern Marines, in the same positive light as you?

TK: DJ, hopefully Bob will share his thoughts on that, mine is that the Marines of today may not be fighting the same types of campaigns, but individually they are the exact same people as before, there is just a certain esprit de corps that goes with it and so much tradition.  Bob, I salute your service right back, every platoon of Marines has a Corpsman with them and we are all very intertwined in this respect.   

stephen March 7, 2012 10:31 am (Pacific time)

one last comment Tim (yeah, sure..I say that all the time dont I?, then post more.. dunno how ya put up with me) :-) But, the marines are not taking orders from the president of the U.S., but the president of the U.N. Security Council..This article explains it perfectly in less than a two minute read...Please take the time. As mentioned: I'm not too concerned about fitness, as I am about why/who/what the marines are fighting for. Maybe if the marines were fat, we would have less war? :-)

stephen March 7, 2012 10:02 am (Pacific time)

You are correct tho Tim..I have seen pictures of hundreds of marines guarding the opium fields in afghanistan, flooding the world (much in the U.S.), with cheap and potent heroin..since its illegal to have in the U.S., the prisons fill up with non-violent offenders...and of all those hundreds of marines, they look very fit, I did not see a fat one anywhere.

stephen March 7, 2012 9:36 am (Pacific time)

I think talking about marines that follow un-constitutional orders might be a bit more important than what their fitness state is, or how far they can hit a target with an M16.
search enigine "oathkeepers"

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