Actor and U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey passed away April 15. Best known for his tough guy military roles, especially Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s film Full Metal Jacket, Ermey died from complications of pneumonia. He was 74 years old.
While he may be best known and recognized as an actor, R. Lee Ermey wasn’t just a tough guy on the big screen. He served as a Marine for 11 years, two of those as a drill instructor. He reached the rank of Staff Sergeant while serving in the Vietnam War, and was later given an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant by the Marine Corps in 2002.
His manager, Bill Rogen, issued a short statement on Twitter Sunday, saying, “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.”
According to Fox News, Ermey joined in the Marine Corps in 1961 when he was 17 years old. During his time in the Corps he would serve 14 months in Vietnam. As a drill instructor for the Marines, Ermey went on to become a technical adviser for war films, bringing his personal knowledge of the military and warfare to help with authenticity.
Ermey was the technical advisor for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, one of the most famous Vietnam War films to this day. Eight years later he was again hired as technical adviser for the film Full Metal Jacket, but managed to land the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.
He published a book in 2013, Gunny’s Rules: How to Get Squared Away Like a Marine, which mixes advice with personal stories from his time as a Marine and an actor.
Follow us on Instagram
Get deals on patriotic items from The Veterans Site store each week!
The beloved actor would go on to appear in numerous film and television roles, including voice work for films like Toy Story, but his famous role landed him the nickname “Gunny” and it was that persona that cherished him to millions on screen and in real life. He remained an active supporter of the military and veterans his whole life.
A spokesman for several companies and appearing in commercials, Ermey’s charisma was unmistakable and will remain unforgettable. He supported the troops both here in the United States as well as traveling overseas to meet with them. Ermey also served as the spokesperson for the Young Marines Youth Organization, according to his website biography.
“He has meant so much to so many people. And, it is extremely difficult to truly quantify all of the great things this man has selflessly done for, and on behalf of, our many men and women in uniform,” his manager said on Facebook. Rogin added that Ermey was “a family man, and a kind and gentle soul. He was generous to everyone around him. And, he especially cared deeply for others in need.”
Semper Fi, Gunny.
Watch this interview with R. Lee Ermey about getting his role in Full Metal Jacket.
Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.