It’s early. 4:30 a.m. early.
Barely awake, Master Sgt. Greg Coleman begins getting ready for the day. He brushes his teeth, combs his hair and puts on his uniform.
Today, this uniform is his Air Force service dress, but he’s not heading to a special military ceremony; he’s heading to studio 11 at the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif., for a taping of the popular television game show “Wheel of Fortune.”
Next to him, his brother, Tech. Sgt. Glenn Coleman, is doing the same thing. Sameness is a theme the brothers are used to. They played the same sports growing up, they both joined the Air Force and they even look alike. The brothers, born seven minutes apart, are identical twins.
Now, they will be playing together on a special military family edition of “Wheel of Fortune.” This is the second year the show has highlighted military families the week surrounding Veterans Day.
“We have military men and women on the show all the time, but to put aside a week especially for them and to honor their families is particularly important to all of us at the show,” said Pat Sajak, the 30-year host of “Wheel of Fortune” and former Army disc jockey for Armed Forces Vietnam Network radio.
This sentiment is also shared by Sajak’s longtime co-host.
“I love military week – it’s great; it’s my favorite time of the year,” said Vanna White. “It’s our way of giving back a little bit to the men and women and their families who give so much for us.”
The brothers meet in the hotel lobby and wait for the shuttle that will take them to the studio. A crowd of people is gathered there already, and other military contestants are also waiting.
The brothers are a little more awake now, and the nerves start to set in.
“It’s a happy nervousness; you’re excited, and you’re just waiting for your chance to spin,” Glenn said. “It’s a finality to the months of waiting.”
The shuttle finally arrives, and the brothers soon find themselves sitting in the green room at the studio. The next few hours are filled with instructions, practice puzzles and makeup.
Then, they wait. Six shows will be taped, and the brothers are slated for the third show. They sit off camera in a special section of the audience, watching other military members and their families take their turn at spinning the famous wheel. While they wait, they formulate a plan. Greg would spin the wheel, and Glenn would concentrate on solving the puzzles. As the Phoenix Raven program manager with the 811th Security Forces Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Greg is used to being the muscle. Glenn, who works as an executive support supervisor for the Office of the Secretary of Defense communications at the Pentagon, is used to being the brains.
“Glenn has always been a little bit better at answering the puzzles. That goes back to when we were kids watching “Wheel of Fortune” with our mom,” Greg said.
While they wait, they also can’t help but think of the incredible journey that brought them here. Glenn was deployed to Afghanistan, and one night, he was sitting at work with some Army buddies when “Wheel of Fortune” began playing on the TV. Glenn solved most of the puzzles fairly easily, and his buddies joked that he should try out for the show. Glenn said he laughed the thought off and went about his day.
Then, almost a year later, someone from the show contacted Glenn to tell him he’d been selected to try out. One of his Army friends had submitted Glenn’s name to be a contestant. Because the show was celebrating military families, Glenn was allowed to choose a family member to join him.
Naturally, he chose Greg.
“We are best friends, we are both in the D.C. area and both in the Air Force. It was an oblivious choice for me to select Greg; I didn’t even think twice about it,” Glenn said.
Several months later, the brothers stepped onto the stage for their chance to spin the wheel and solve puzzles in front of a live audience and millions of viewers once the show aired.
The brothers left with some money in their pockets and a great experience they will never forget.
“In the end, we walked away with enough money to one day take a trip,” Glenn said. “We shared a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we represented the Air Force.”
The next morning, Greg wakes up, brushes his teeth, combs his hair and puts his uniform on, preparing for work. Across town, his brother Glenn is doing the same thing.