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America's Marines

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By The Staff

By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

Pete Raymer sat comfortably in a director's chair to watch the scene play out before him: Two dozen U.S. Marines, members of the USMC's Silent Drill Platoon, stood in a row in the middle of a soon-to-be-harvested soybean field, performing a portion of the group's routine while the sun came up before them.

A few feet outside the field was the production crew filming the group for a commercial that will be part of a new USMC advertising campaign and video documentary, "America's Marines." The campaign and docu-

mentary should launch in the first quarter of 2008, according to a press release from Hill & Knowlton, the public affairs and relations consultants working with the campaign.

The scene undoubtedly drew attention from curious motorists along Kentucky 1861, where traffic was stopped periodically during filming.

Raymer, 85, grinned at the scene after showing pictures of his family to a production crewmember.

"I was here for the train wreck of 1936," he said. "This is the biggest crowd of people since the train wreck."

Dwight Raymer, Pete's son, who owns the farm where a portion of the commercial was filmed, said he was contacted several weeks ago by a member of the production crew. That member told Raymer he'd flown into Louisville and saw the farm on a drive through the region. "He liked the backdrop" of the soybean field and barns, Raymer said. For the next few weeks, the production company stressed to Raymer to not change a thing about the scene, leaving it as is.

For Raymer, it was an honor to be able to assist in the commercial's production.

"My whole family served in the military except for me," he said. "I was glad to help the military out. Dad drove a tank in World War II, and Dennis was infantry in Vietnam."

Dwight's father, Pete, is a World War II veteran; his relative Dennis Yeary is a veteran of Vietnam. Two of Dwight's uncles served in Korea.

Five hours after setting up on the Raymer farm, the production crew, Marines, and spectators migrated to Kohler Stables on L'Esprit Parkway in Sligo.

A few hours later, at L'Esprit, the production crew wrangled, for almost an hour, with an uncooperative horse, leading some spectators to joke, "If that horse had been a Marine, he would have gone where you wanted it to go."

But the crew finally got its shot - just one - with Chorus Line, a two-year old Morgan stallion. The commercial's director, Ian MacKenzie, joked that if he were a horse, he likely wouldn't run toward 36 trained riflemen either.

The Platoon, composed of 36 total members, spun their 10.5-pound M-1 Garand rifles, bayonets affixed, with well-practiced precision, accompanied by a cadence-like clap of gloved hands on the rifle stocks that echoed across the fields in Sligo and L'Esprit.

Some spectators, including the mother of one of the platoon members, drove more than six hours to watch the production. Most of the spectators were not local residents, but many had ties to the Marine Corps, either as family members or former Marines themselves.

Several, including Junior ROTC cadets from Illinois, were interviewed for the documentary portion of the campaign.

Gunnery Sgt. Pauline Franklin said the campaign is designed to deepen the connections Americans feel with the Marine Corps, whose members reflect a multitude of communities.

"We're showing the American people that these are your Marines," Franklin said.

The documentary, she added, also will show what Marines think and why they serve.

The Silent Drill Platoon members are selected from the Marine Corps infantry school based on specific criteria. "They're looking for men of good character," Franklin said. "These are pretty much the cream of the crop."

Members of the platoon generally serve for two years, with the exception of the platoon commander, who may serve a little bit longer.

Franklin said the new advertising campaign and documentary are part of the biggest project she's seen the Marine Corps take on. "We're pretty excited about it," she said.

The locations chosen for the commercial and documentary generally were chosen because they are easily identifiable places, Franklin said. So far, the Silent Drill Platoon has been in locations including New York City's Times Square; San Francisco; Nashville, Tenn.; and Philadelphia.

The portions of Henry County they filmed in were chosen because of the county's classic Midwestern appearance, Franklin said Saturday morning.

E-mail us about this article at editor@hclocal.com.