In a very unfortunate piece of news, we have learned that Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt.) R. Lee Ermey has passed away due to complication from pneumonia. He was 74. Gunny, as he was more commonly referred to, was one of those larger-than-life characters that you would think would never die. While he may be most famously known for his role as the hardass GySgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, he has either acted or lent his voice to over 100 different films. He played Sarge in the Toy Story movies, Warden in Spongebob Squarepants (yes, Spongebob), Sheriff Hoyt in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and many, many more. Most recently, he would be known as the host of the show Gunny Time on the Outdoor Channel.
Statement from R. Lee Ermey's long time manager, Bill Rogin:
It is with deep sadness that I regret to inform you all that R. Lee Ermey ("The Gunny") passed away this morning from complications of pneumonia. He will be greatly missed by all of us.
Semper Fi, Gunny. Godspeed. pic.twitter.com/vf4O78JKmb
— R. Lee Ermey (@RLeeErmey) April 15, 2018
Gunny and the USMC
R. Lee Ermey enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1961 and shortly became a Drill Instructor in India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. He then would get stationed in Okinawa, Japan, where he would become a Staff Sergeant (SSgt.). Ermey was medically discharged from the Marine Corps in 1972 with the rank of SSgt. It wouldn’t be until 2002 that he received an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James L. Jones.
‘Full Metal Jacket’
GySgt. Ermey would earn small roles in movies The Boys in Company C, Apocalypse Now, and Purple Hearts, before earning his breakout role in the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket. GySgt. Ermey was hired to be a technical advisor for the movie until he made an instructional tape. In the tape, he berated several extras in a way only a USMC Drill Instructor can. After seeing it, Kubrick was convinced it was Ermey that was the right choice for the role of GySgt. Hartman. Since Kubrick was looking for authenticity in the movie, he would actually let GySgt. Ermey write his own lines and even improvise. It was this authenticity that would earn GySgt. Ermey a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film.
This is the type of article a person would never want to write. That being said, I take great pride in writing this. I come from a military family and attempted to join the USMC myself almost 20 years ago. While that didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, I have the utmost respect for everyone that serves in our military. Legends never die. Semper fi, sir.