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There are No Fat MarinesPolitical Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
From news media to Clint Eastwood films: accuracy in depicting Marines is dismissed; integrity shattered by illusion.
(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.
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.
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...
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.
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
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 Salem-News.com, 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.
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 Salem-News.com. 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 has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com'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 Salem-News.com 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 Salem-News.com, 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: email@example.com. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)
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