Raymond Plouhar, “Fahrenheit 9/11” Recruiter, Mourned
Marine Staff Sergeant Raymond Plouhar, the recruiter in “Fahrenheit 9/11,” was recently killed in Iraq. Contrary to his portrayal in Michael Moore’s vile propaganda piece, he was an exemplary human being who spent his life in the service of others.
He was a stern-faced sniper — and a soft-hearted Marine who handed out candy to kids in Iraq. He was a warrior who wrote poetry about life and death. He was featured in Michael Moore’s antiwar documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” portrayed as an overzealous Marine recruiter who targeted poor kids.
But Staff Sgt. Raymond Plouhar was far more complicated than that. And it was that complicated man who died in Iraq in late June, as he served with some of the same men he had recruited years ago. It was that complex man who was buried Friday, by a family that honored his service but would never forget his humanity. “He had a huge heart,” says his widow, Leigha.
Plouhar was a Marine for 10 of his 30 years, but he had dreamed of joining the military ever since he was a little boy who liked to watch “M-A-S-H” on television and dress in fatigues and a camouflage shirt. He entered the Corps straight out of high school, was trained as a sniper and traveled the world — Bosnia, Sudan and Israel. He had a ramrod posture and a fierce pride in his appearance: He once ironed his uniform and polished its brass buttons for two hours before allowing his mom to photograph him.
“He told me lots of times that he learned what could be accomplished .. if you put your heart and soul in it — and he put his heart and soul in the Marine Corps,” says his father, also named Raymond. “He was gung-ho from the time he signed his name until the day he died.”
Plouhar was killed on June 26 by a roadside bomb in Anbar province in his second tour of duty in Iraq, weeks before he was to return home. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Plouhar did step back from active duty for four years and worked as a recruiter in Flint so he could donate a kidney to his uncle.
It was as a recruiter that Plouhar was seen in Moore’s award-winning “Fahrenheit 9/11.” The segment shows Plouhar and another Marine in a mall parking lot in a depressed suburb of Flint; it suggests the two men were cynically hunting for poor teens to sign up, rather than go to a wealthy suburb where they’d likely be rejected.
Plouhar’s father says his son told him he had been misled and believed he was being filmed for a documentary that would appear on the Discovery Channel. (Moore’s office didn’t return calls or e-mail messages seeking comment.) “He cried when he found out what it really was,” his father says. “He never dreamed that it was going to be something to slam the country, which he dearly loved.”
His parents say they’ve seen only the segment featuring their son. Leigha Plouhar says her husband asked her not to watch the film — and she never has. Nor has Stephen Wandrie, his friend of 20 years, who says Plouhar was hurt by the film, but told him: “‘You know what? I know what I do is good for this country and every one of those people I’m recruiting — those guys are my brothers.’ ”
Rest in peace, Marine, secure in the knowledge that the contributions you made in your short life far exceeded Michael Moore’s.