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12-28-03, 07:23 AM
Semper Fi

Beaufort local, retiree uses dedication to Marine Corps to create accurate military films
Published Tue, Dec 16, 2003

More by By Michael Kerr
Gazette Staff Writer

The walls of Ron Tucker's Beaufort home are decorated with framed photographs, plaques and mementos of a 22-year Marine Corps career that, in many ways, began when he was just a child watching television.
Growing up in the "good old days" of the 1950s, there were only two types of programs to watch: westerns and war movies, Tucker said.

His first taste of the Marine Corps came from movies such as the 1949 John Wayne flick "Sands of Iwo Jima" and the TV show "The Lieutenant" starring Gary Lockwood as a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton near San Diego.

"I couldn't wait to learn more about the Marine Corps," Tucker said. "I started filling my head with the Marine Corps."

Catching the occasional rerun of "The Lieutenant" these days, Tucker admits the show was "a little hokey."

"Still, on a 12-year-old, it made an impression," he said.

When Tucker's mother bought him a backpack for school emblazoned with "U.S. Army," the future captain was quick to rectify the situation.

"I took a black magic marker and blacked it out," Tucker says with a laugh. "I printed 'USMC' on the thing. I wore that pack back and forth to school for the longest time."

And in 1971 he traded in the backpack for an official Marine Corps pack, surprising his parents who never thought he'd go through with enlisting, although it was just about all he had talked about for the 10 years prior, he said.

With Vietnam winding down, there still weren't many people walking into recruiting offices and signing up for the Corps, Tucker says, but he was an exception to the rule.

"I walked in. I was ready to go."

Once a Marine, always a Marine

When Tucker retired from the Corps in 1992, he found himself without a job and looking for something to do, he said.

"I saw Beaufort through very different eyes," Tucker said. "It was my first time looking at Beaufort through civilian eyes. But I never got too far away from the Marine Corps, either."

In 1994, Tucker saw a training tape set at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island that would have a direct impact on his future.

"I thought, 'Wow, this is not very good.' I could tell a Marine was not involved," Tucker says. "I said, 'I can do a better job than that.' And my wife asked, 'Well, why don't you?' "

So he did.

Having founded Sandbar Productions, a coordinating production company, in 1993, Tucker joined forces with Steve Cooney, the president and chief executive officer of Charleston-based Trident Productions to form a joint venture company, Good-To-Go Video, combining Cooney's more than 30 years of broadcast experience and Tucker's Marine background to produce "The Making of a Marine."

The video, which chronicled the grueling 13 weeks recruits must endure before earning the title of United States Marine, was a hit.

More videos soon followed, such as "The Evening Parade," about the evening ceremony of the Marine Band, Drum and Bugle Corps and world-famous Silent Drill Platoon, "And Then They Were Called Marines," about women in the Corps, and "The Crucible: The New, The Proud," about the 54-hour final test for Marine recruits.

"All of our programs are really patriotic," Tucker said. "At the end, I want everyone to be crying in the aisles, or standing up and cheering the Marines. I want them to feel so good about the program that they'll feel proud of the Marine Corps."

For Tucker, making the videos are more than a job. It's a chance for him to stay close to and continue learning more and more about the Corps he's loved for nearly 40 years.

"We kind of stay under the radar," Tucker says. "It's more about telling the Marines' story, showcasing Marines and telling the American public what's going on."

Over the past few years, other company's have begun producing documentaries on the Corps, which Tucker thinks is great.

"The more the merrier," he said. "It definitely helps recruiting. It could be that one story that influences somebody down the line to say, 'Hey, that's what I want to do.'"

Knowing that he could be making a difference young men and women's lives keeps Tucker passionate about his work, he says.

"In a lot of ways, I'm more involved with the Marine Corps now than I was when I was on active duty," Tucker said. "I feel like I never retired."

Sand fleas and all

Tucker was first introduced to Beaufort County on April 13, 1971, when he was bused onto Parris Island and took his place on the yellow footprints as a Marine recruit.

During the next 22 years, Tucker would be stationed at Parris Island twice and at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort once, and, having married a Beaufort High School grad from Port Royal, chose to make Beaufort his permanent home.

"The first time I came to Beaufort I loved it," Tucker said. "There are just very hospitable people, friendly people here. You don't have to know someone to wave to them or speak to them It was just a community I fell in love with."

Beaufort County is a little different from most military towns, Tucker said. In many places, there is a bold line between the military and civilian portions of the community, but that doesn't exist here.

"The military community is totally enmeshed in the civilian community. It's one community," Tucker said. "Everybody is living together and having fun together."

Tucker worked at Parris Island as both an enlisted Marine and as an officer after completing the Basic School in Quantico, Va., and, after a deployment to Iwakuni, Japan, was stationed with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, the Sweathogs, at the air station.

"It was different," Tucker said of his stay with the Sweathogs. "It's kind of like you're in the trenches You travel to where the action is."

The action, for Tucker, included traveling near Charleston to help people whose homes and lives had been ravaged by Hurricane Hugo, as well as joining Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 out of Cherry Point, N.C. to deploy aboard an aircraft carrier in support of Operation Desert Shield.

In 1992, Tucker was offered a promotion to major, but that would have meant uprooting the family and moving to Norfolk, Va. Instead, Tucker chose to retire and remain in the town he had grown to love during the course of his career.

"We're blessed," Tucker said. "We're blessed with a great climate and the great atmosphere of our three bases This is the place for me."

"I can't imagine living anywhere else. Beaufort is home to me. Sand fleas and all, I love the place."

Contact Michael Kerr at 986-5539 or mkerr@beaufortgazette.com.

Definition: Semper Fi
Short for Semper Fidelis, is a Latin phrase the means 'forever faithful.' It was adopted around 1883 as the motto of the Corps. Before that, there had been three mottoes, all traditional rather than official.