My fellow readers, ever since I first began developing the manuscript for TUFFY'S HEROES back in 1975, I realized I wanted to instill as much humor within the book as possible to off-set the hard-core basic military training scenes. Well, sometime in 1976 or '77, I went to the movies to see a new film called, "The Boys In Company C". If you've never seen it before, please rent it!! It takes place in the 70s and is about a group of young civilians entering Marine boot camp during the Vietnam War.
In the film there was a certain D.I. that stuck out like a single rose in the middle of a cabbage patch! The role of that D.I. was played by a real ex- Marine D.I. named, R. Lee Ermey, later to be immortalized as one of the most memorable characters in movie history as he played "Gunny" Hartman, the hard-core D.I. in the film, full Metal Jacket. And now he is the star of his own TV series on the History Channel called, MAIL-CALL.
During the course of pre-promoting and promoting TUFFY'S HEROES, the "Gunny" was the number one individual I really desired to make contact with and ask him if he would like to read my new book. For almost two years prior to the book's release, my wife and I discussed how we could possibly arrange this to happen. Yeah, right! Me, an unknown author trying to get a major movie star to read my book! NEV-A HAPPEN, G.I.!
On the 16th of December, this year, I came upon two possible addresses for the Gunny...but, do I dare? I sat in front of my computer and stared at both addresses not really knowing exactly what to do. So, I finally drafted a letter to him, read it, re-read it, re-RE-read it and mustered up the guts to mail it...three days later.
Now gang, we ALL know precisley what the odds are that a movie star is going to personally answer letters we send off to them...a BIG ZERO!
Well, tonight, December 30, 2004, at exactly 8:10pm San Antonio time, the phone rang which my wife answered. My wife picked up the phone and the caller ID registered the name, Ronald Ermey. I looked at my wife to find out who it was and she had a blank stare on her face. I asked her, "Who is it, Babe"?
She answered, quite carefully, "I-I think it's the Gunny, Joe."
"Whhaaattt?" I responded, not quite sure what was happening.
Finally she said into the phone, "Hello". The "Voice" said, "Hello, may I speak with Joe, please. "She handed me the phone and I softly said, "Hello". As soon as I heard the "voice", I knew who it was...it WAS the Gunny! He said, " Hi Joe, this is Lee Ermey and I just finished reading your letter. I would love to read TUFFY' HEROES and would enjoy it you would send it to me!"
Now gang, I'm speaking with the "Gunny", my hero...on my home phone...who just took the time to call me! It took me a few minutes to gather myself and actually begin to speak as a normal person should. Of course, HE put me at ease by simply saying, "Relax, Joe"!
We had a wonderful conversation that lasted about 40 minutes and he mentioned he remembered my good friend, Marine Captain Jason Grose. He said, "Captain Grose stood out to him as a fine Marine officer. "We spoke about my book, TUFFY'S HEROES, and how I developed a specific character named MSgt Horace Swayzee which was modeled after him as he is seen on MAIL-CALL. He appeared to be generally interested with this and we continued to talk. I'll not enter here the other things Gunny and I spoke of because when I mailed the book to him the next morning I enclosed a letter in which I gave my word I would not disclose all we spoke of.
But I WILL say this to all of you. R. Lee "Gunny" Ermey is a man of total honor and integrity and beloved by G.I.s all over the world. And just the thought that he cared enough about this old retired Air Force T.I. during the Christmas season, to take time out of his extremely busy schedule and call me at home is enough to make my next decade!!!
So, all you readers go on-line to barnes&noble.com (order by title) or amazon.com(order by my name) and order a copy of TUFFY'S HEROES...NOW!