Bill Paxton knew he wanted to be a marine the day his family buried his dad, a marine who had been killed while fighting the Japanese during the Pacific campaign of World War II. His drill instructor in boot camp had a significant impact on him and would later be the focus of the movie The DI.
His early years in the marines formed the basis for his successful career; he twice served as a drill instructor and had two tours of duty in Vietnam as a grunt. His impact on all who he came in contact with was evident in the drive that pushed Ken Norton, his former recruit, to become the Boxing Heavyweight Champion of the World. Paxton received the Bronze Star for heroic actions in Vietnam and was also awarded several Purple Heart Medals for wounds he received in battle.
Having achieved the rank of sergeant major, he retired from active duty after thirty years; still, he proudly says, "Retired, but still active!" He has become an icon in the marines and is one of the most well-known marines in the San Diego area.