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A Veterans Day Visit with Novato's Own G.I. Jane

Jane Parkhurst, whose real life experiences inspired the 1997 film, "G.I. Jane" starring Demi Moore, makes Novato her home.

Three things came as huge surprises about the Novato resident, Jane Parkhurst, known worldwide as G.I Jane. First, she’s only 5-foot-4 and 110 pounds. “Size has nothing to do with anything,” she asserts, then laughs: “Mighty things come in small packages.”

The second surprise is that she joined the Army when she was already in her 30s. Getting in narrowly under the cut-off age of 32, Jane left her job as a small town police officer in 1990, at the start of Operation Desert Storm. The male-only military occupational skills training she underwent, as depicted in the ’97 film starring Demi Moore, came four years later when she was 35 years old. She was the first woman to complete the training.

Parkhurst says the military higher-ups who asked her to volunteer for the assignment didn’t even think of her age at the time.

"I was getting high scores in physical tests, had good command presence, good evaluations and showed very good leadership in my unit,” she says. Jutting out her elbow as she raises her hand high, as if of its own volition, she laughs and says, “I also had this thing in my shoulder where I kept volunteering.”

So not only was she the first and only woman in her military occupational skills  training, she was also the oldest person by almost a decade.

The third surprise is the biggest yet: The movie was already made before Parkhurst knew anything about it. Yet it was clearly inspired by her story and acknowledged as so by the Army after the fact.

With a shrug, she say, “You can’t sue the Army.”

According to Parkhurst, 80 percent of the film is “right on,” down to things she said and photographs from her file. There was no use of double standards in her training, and the scene in which she shaves her head in an empty barbershop is accurate.

OK, so I ask her if the Master Chief (played by Viggo Mortensen in the film) really quoted D.H. Lawrence. I’m referring to the poem “Self Pity,” referred to both in the beginning and at end of the film:

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

Yes, she heard that one, she tells me. “We really like it (poetry) in the military," she says. "Sometimes poetry, sometimes historical quotes — it soothes us. A lot of officers from West Point are taught English lit and they quote a lot of poetry. People actually learn better if they listen to inspirational type things rather than a lecture.”

(Jane, who grew up in the '60s and 70s with undiagnosed dyslexia, says she learned how to compensate early for her weaknesses, including the learning disability as well as her small size.)

The Master Chief giving her the book at the end with his war medal was “pure Hollywood” she tells me, as was another 20 percent of the movie, including her unit being diverted from training to do an extraction in Libya.

As she nestles in the over-stuffed leather chair near a large picture window overlooking open space in her rustic, hillside Atherton home, Parkhurst seems comfortable in her skin and I ask her if that’s indeed true. She nods and smiles. Remembering all the one-armed push-ups and brutal physical challenges in the movie, I ask her how she felt about her body during that training. Were you punishing it? A friend to it? What?

“Well, I would think, ‘Don’t give up now,' she says and laughs, “and I used to say I’m always praying my warranty won’t expire yet.”

Parkhurst's fitness score when she went into the Army was 290 (300 is a perfect score). She was always in the highest 10 percent of fitness standards in the military and later received a commendation for keeping her unit at the highest level of fitness.

“I make it a game even now," she says. "Every time after I use the bathroom, I wash my hands, and do 25 quick push-ups against the sink."

The lifelong elite athlete is now 53. Married to Doug Parkhurst for over two decades, the couple moved from Mill Valley to Novato several years ago “after seeing American flags on the streets,” as Doug Parkhurst says.

“The Army has been exceptionally good for me in so many ways,” Jane Parkhurst says. “I never push it on anybody, because it’s not for everybody. Jobwise, they train you — I could be a surgical technician in any hospital, a paramedic. I’m a weapons expert. It gives you three squares (meals), a roof over your head, stability, medical and dental.” She flashes a big smile of perfect teeth.

She uses the words guts and tenaciousness several times during our conversation, making it obvious that they are big in her vocabulary and her life. And that's not a big surprise.

Happy Veterans Day to all our troops!

Chris Larsen March 31, 2012 at 08:33 PM
The 2nd Medical Brigade, a U.S. Army Reserve unit, is not an airborne unit; she is not authorized to wear the Airborne tab. This story has so many holes it should be called Swiss cheese.
Mitch Hedberg March 31, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Ms. Huizenga: You did a poor job fact-checking for this article. Parkhurst is NOT the inspiration for "GI Jane". If you don't believe me, you could have asked the screenwriter, Danielle Alexandra. See here: http://www.filmscouts.com/scripts/matinee.cfm?Film=gi-jane&File=productn I found this with a simple Internet search. You could have probably spoken to her yourself to verify. Also, what MOS training is Parkhurst claiming to have completed that was all-male? You don't mention it. You mention she's a medic. That MOS is not all-male. As a matter of fact, Parkhurst claims to still serve in the Army Reserve, but she's not listed in the Army's email directory. I call BS on this whole story. Again, Ms. Huizenga, if you want to confirm any of Parkhurst's service, contact the US Army Reserve Public Affairs Office.
Mitch Hedberg March 31, 2012 at 08:51 PM
One more thing, there are no Master Chiefs in the Army. Master Chief Petty Officer is a Navy rank. I doubt she even completed airborne, air assault, or expert field medical badge training/qualification.
Kevin Powers March 31, 2012 at 10:34 PM
In the story above she claims "The movie was already made before Parkhurst knew anything about it." but in other articles she claims to have been a consultant in the movie. As pointed out above, GI Jane was in the Navy. The SEALS are Navy. And what rank is she? The picture above is SFC, the one on her website is SSG.
Kevin Powers March 31, 2012 at 11:59 PM
She can always explain away her BS story by claiming to have caught the PTSD from shaking hands with a returning warrior.
Mitch Hedberg April 13, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Ms. Huizenga, the author of this piece, and Brent Ainsworth, editor, are poor excuses for whatever it is they claim to be with the Novato Patch. As has been pointed out, both on here and to them personally via email, Parkhurst is a liar and a fraud. This whole story is BS, and yet, here it is still up for all to see. I demand a printed retraction and removal of this story. The Novato Patch is now actively complicit in Parkhurst's fraud.
Fred Campbell August 12, 2012 at 07:00 AM
From everything I have seen in her military records, she was in the medical field, not some high speed MOS....100% poser
Ellen Hannah December 20, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I have known Jane since childhood. I was told by her, the movie was based on her AND another women in the military. Jane is all army as proudly displayed on her old car's personnel plate "IAMARMY". I have seen the photo's taken on the movie set, some of which were taken by her husband, on display in their home. Jane never claimed to be MOS, the movie is not a biographic, just based on two amazing womens accomplishments in the military. There is plenty of artistic, and dramatic additions, by the movie screenwriters etc. Jane has never claimed to be anything she is not. Never claimed to do anything she has not done. Some of you accusing her of being a poser should do some more homework and get your facts straight before "slinging mud".
Kevin Powers December 21, 2012 at 12:15 AM
As stated in my previous comment, the article states: 'The third surprise is the biggest yet: The movie was already made before Parkhurst knew anything about it. Yet it was clearly inspired by her story and acknowledged as so by the Army after the fact.' You state that you've seen pictures of the movie set in their home. I could get pictures of movie set on the google machine. What does that prove? As for the license, doesn't prove anything either. So you are stating that Beth Huizenga lied in the story above when she stated 'The movie was already made before Parkhurst knew anything about it.'? A reporter that lies... what are the odds?
Scott December 21, 2012 at 11:45 PM
First of all Beth DID NOT LIE! Secondly, Kevin I have to wonder about someone who tracks this post 24/7....And to say "doesn't prove anything" in regards to the license plate....I have to correct you there. It sure as hell does. If you were Military you would know. Now as for the "Movie"....My sister did not know about it till after it was made. The Army was the one who told her. Her friend meant to say that the pictures were sent to Jane by some folks she made friends of in the movie (afterwards). Pictures she saw Jane IN on set were of "High Crimes" as a tech. advisor and bit actor till severely injured by getting hit by camera car at 20 mph by Ashley Judd. Also Jane won her DUI. And are you saying that COMBAT MEDIC'S aren't allowed to get PTSD??!! Boy, I like to see you walk up to one of them and tell them that.....If it was you or another guy here....How dare you guys write stuff about her when you haven't checked the facts. And the guy who wrote he read her "file"...Well, if you did then why not tell the truth of what you truly read then?!! So you are the liar(s). I was begged not to write in and reply to these low self-esteem people, but I've had enough of your guys BS. And she is a hero....Do you know how many lives she has saved?? She won't tell ya...but a lot and not all war time either. So go find someone else to pick on and grow up.
Scott December 22, 2012 at 12:00 AM
First of all "Fred"....You paid a $29 fee to see if Jane was in the Military....That site does NOT give out nor show ANYONE a Soldier's 201 file. So let's just say for kicks and giggles you read my sister's file. OR the even if your an Officer, you still can't just waltz right in and take a Soldier's 201 file. Also do you really know where her file is?! Also you are WRONG about "everything I've seen....she was in medical field" do you know how many MOS's she has?? Then why didn't you tell the truth?????? Why did you lie here??? I've seen her 201 file(s) and there is a lot of "high speed" stuff in it! Also none of you seem to be able to read....You guys just rather nit pick and not read what's right in front of you. Or even in-between the lines sometimes.... So, who's the poser now?
Scott December 22, 2012 at 12:15 AM
The email is a volunteer. Do YOUR homework. My sister does not nor ever did claim to state she was still in the service....You did her a favor by reminding her about an old website of their older Team's website! So she thanks you for that. And for you to go around and tell folks "Oh look she's claiming to still be serving"!! How damn petty can you be?? And also 5 people have claimed to have written G.I.Jane by the way. Jane never ever told, says she is a Navy Seal either! Nor does she ever lead people to believe that a Combat Medic is an all male MOS!! She also won her DUI as 24 others plus an expert believed her as well. (Plus she never "crashed" her hummer!) She left the Army in Oct.'10. There is a VERY good explanation behind her E-6/7 that even her Unit knows about and is looking into because she was up and getting that E-7 the day she was hit by a camera car....But I nor Jane don't owe you nor the others any answers 'cause it's none of your concern really. You should be more concern with guys who wear the MoH and didn't earn it. Jane has saved lives and never asked to be hooah'ed over it....like a lot of others do and OFFICERS just dig getting medals and ribbons they didn't earn....Mitch....Careful about throwing rocks at a glass house.
Scott December 22, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Chris, your right about the 2nd Med. but your wrong about those wearing the Airborne tab....even if assigned to a Medical Unit. Please do homework before slinging mud at someone. My Sister is who she is and has earned what she has earned. I know for a fact she wouldn't even think about writing shit about someone till she did homework up the ying yang and secondly.....she wouldn't even be doing this kind of thing, writing crap about someone like you guys have been doing...it's so petty. Either you guys have low self esteem or that bored or what? Go after those who wear the Medal of Honor who didn't earn it and or people who kill kids......Just grow up and knock it off. But I'm sure I fueled the fire again and you guys will start up all over again 'cause your bored. P.S., She shut one guy by showing him ALL her 201(s)/photos that are not touched up before you say that.... and he put an end to his BS....
Chris Larsen March 12, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Well, "Scott," fact of the matter is, theairborne tab is only worn by those units that are designated as airbone - not the individual. And, if she was so squared away, she would be wearing the tab correctly - above the patch, not on the pocket flap, as with the Ranger and Sapper tabs. The story never describes the alleged "male only" training she received - and if a course was truly closed to females, she wouldn't have been in the training to begin with. And, while I'm at it, it's "you're," not "your." How's that for petty?
Scott Timothy Parkhurst March 25, 2013 at 06:27 AM
Just to let you know Mitch....I just saw my sister's name and proof of her being in the military if you go to GI Search. So Sir she has a good law suit against you for slander and I'm going to highly recommend that she sues you and the others as well, including the ex-San Anselmo Cop who started the ball rolling by bad mouthing her and her husband who also might sue his ass as well for slander. But these people are so kind hearted and NOT sue happy that they'll just might come up with something else for you....Which by the way Mitch they got some stuff on you that I KNOW you do not want known about your past.....Makes me wonder why the hell you even started all this to begin with. If you want to meet the Parkhurst's I without their lawyer I'm sure they would arrange it along with all her files so you can shut your hot mouth once and for all!

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