Jim Nabors, perhaps best known as his loveable, often-bumbling character Gomer Pyle from the hit CBS television show “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.,” was promoted to Honorary Corporal in a sunset ceremony held at Fort DeRussy in Waikiki Sept. 25.
Nabors was made an Honorary Marine and promoted to Honorary Lance Corporal Aug. 9, 2001 by then-Commandant Gen. James Jones, after nearly 38 years as a private first class.
Nabors said he never expected to be promoted again after lance corporal.
“I was surprised about the first one,” Nabors said. “Gen. [James L.] Jones asked me one day how long I had been a PFC and I told him,'Sir, I still am.'”
Nabors was selected for promotion based on his outstanding contributions to the Marine Corps and the United States.
“Today we take pride in honoring a great American,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman, Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. “He truly embodies what’s best about the Marine Corps and what our Marines represent.”
Gen. Goodman discussed the idea of this promotion with the Commandant, who gave his approval. The ceremony was held on the 43rd anniversary of the debut of"Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." on national television.
“Well, Gol-ly!” was Nabors'response after Gen. Goodman pinned on his new rank.
To be named an Honorary Marine is a rare thing. Some of the more notable Honorary Marines include: Joe Rosenthal, photographer of the second flag raising over Iwo Jima; Lon Chaney and Chuck Norris.
As rare as it is to be selected as an Honorary Marine, it is even rarer still for one to be promoted.
In his remarks, Gen. Goodman talked about how corporal is such a significant rank in the Corps, being the first echelon of leadership in the Marine rank structure. As a noncommissioned officer, a Marine corporal has a tremendous amount of responsibility to his Marines, on- and off-duty.
Nabors'status as an Honorary Corporal was not earned easily. He has spent an entire life dedicated to the service and positive influence of others. Whether from his years as an American TV icon or a performer around the world, he has been an example of those traits the Marine Corps holds in high regard.
It was those exceptional leadership traits of honor, honesty and devotion that merited Nabors promotion to this rank, according to Gen. Goodman.
“Gomer Pyle taught us that an honest person who is determined to do the right thing will always end up in the right place,” Gen. Goodman said.
Nabors was also presented with some gifts to mark the occasion, but one stood out among the rest.
Nabors was presented with an NCO sword, the oldest U.S. military weapon still in use today. Marine NCOs are the only NCOs authorized to carry a sword.
“Who better to deserve this honor than Jim,” said Gen. Goodman. “Gomer Pyle taught the American people that Marines are people and that they have a sense of humor, in spite of what they go through. I think that brought the Marine Corps closer to the people than any other movie or TV show.”
“I cannot think of a better group to be a part of,” Nabors said. “Its something you take with you the rest of your life.”
Danny Kaleikini, Hawaii's"Ambassador of Aloha," was one of many distinguished guests from the local Hawaii community to share in the evening's festivities.
“He came to Hawaii and became a Hawaiian and did so much for the Hawaii people. For that I am so very thankful,” said Kaleikini, who has been an entertainer here for more than 30 years. “He takes the spirit of aloha with him all over the world.”
Humbly, Nabors had very few things to say about himself. He spent most of his time remarking about how grateful he was to the Marines, and what they do for the people of this country.
“Thank you just is not good enough for what these men and women do. I am glad to be a part of what they stand for,” he said. “I am honored to meet any Marine.”
So what’s next for Nabors? Does sergeant loom in the distance?
“Well it took me 38 years to get to lance corporal, but only six to get to corporal,” he said. “I guess I’m on the fast track now.”