The John Wick series of movies did more than reinvigorate the career of the internet’s boyfriend, Keanu Reeves. It also gave the action genre a much-needed kick in the pants, proving once again that an action-packed thrill ride doesn’t need the cliche’d blue sky beam and giant CGI monsters that litter nearly every other summer blockbuster.
John Wick successfully demonstrated (three times now) that all you really need for a kick-ass movie is a fifty-something former hitman/Marine veteran, one dead puppy, and of course (as Wick himself puts it), “Guns… Lots of guns.”
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Wait a minute… John Wick is a Marine?” Wick’s veteran-status remains a point of some debate, but there is indeed some evidence to suggest that he spent some time in Uncle Sam’s favorite gun club. As Eric Milzarski explained in a great piece breaking down the evidence of Wick’s veteran status for We Are the Mighty, if you pay close enough attention, the signs are there.
Wick wears a tactical style watch, facing inboard, on his non-dominant hand, which is common practice among war fighters for both light discipline and protection of the watch face while you roll around in the mud. Other evidence includes the color palette chosen for the majority of the first film (gold and scarlet), and his close relationship with a sniper named Marcus, played by Willem Dafoe. Defoe’s character is also not specifically named as a Marine veteran, but some contend his skillset and age difference to Wick might suggest he was once the Baba Yaga’s NCO.
But the most prominent John Wick Easter egg that seems to substantiate his past life as a Jarhead has to be the tattoo on his back which reads, “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat,” or “Fortune Favors the Bold.”
That specific Latin axiom dates all the way back to the 1st century B.C.E., when it was first penned by the Roman poet Virgil, and at first glance, it may seem like a fairly generic tattoo for a black belt in murder like John Wick. However, in the modern world, a slightly different iteration, Fortis Fortuna Juvat, might be most readily found adorning the crest of the 3rd Marine Regiment out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, where it also serves as the unit motto for the regiment’s 2nd battalion.
Let’s be honest with each other… if the tattoo read “Fortis Fortuna Juvat,” I’d be more comfortable calling this case closed, but because Wick’s tattoo represents a slightly different version of the age-old saying, it’s tough for me to call this the smoking gun we need to claim Wick as definitively a Marine.
Those reservations, however, haven’t stopped the rest of the John Wick fanbase from associating him with the Marine Corps. In fact, you can find references to Wick’s Marine background on all sorts of fan sites, wiki pages, and YouTube channels. Because Wick is, after all, a fictional character, this does beg the question… If everyone believes something about a fictional character is true, does that make it actually true?
“John is shown to have a tattoo across his back reading “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat” (“fortune favors the bold”), which would imply that he was once in the United States Marine Corps 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, but this has yet to be confirmed. If he was, it was likely he was a Special Ops soldier, given his extensive knowledge of security surveillance and being able to strategically plan things very well.”-The John Wick Fandom Wiki, which doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a Marine and a Soldier.
John Wick is also featured as a playable character in the video game “Payday 2,” and like other fan-managed websites, the Payday Wiki also considers Wick’s history in the Marine Corps as viable enough to be considered in-game cannon.
“John Wick, prior to being a hitman, served in the United States Marine Corps.”–Payday Fandom Wiki
Is that enough to confirm Wick previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps? The jury is probably still out — and those involved with the Wick franchise have thus far neither confirmed nor denied the possibility. That could be because it’s true… or because the franchise likes to keep a few secrets close to the chest.
The evidence may not be definitive, but as far as we Marines are concerned, we’ll be happy to claim his as our own.
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This article was originally published 10/6/2020