Home » Military Personnel » Marine, Actor R. Lee Ermey Dies at 74


Marine, Actor R. Lee Ermey Dies at 74

Marine Corps and Vietnam veteran R. Lee Ermey, whose Hollywood career was cemented in his acclaimed portrayal of a hard-core, ranting senior drill instructor in the movie Full Metal Jacket, died on Sunday morning. He was 74.

Ermey’s passing was announced by his long-time manager, Bill Rogin, in posting late Sunday afternoon on Ermey’s Twitter handle, @RLeeErmey. The veteran actor’s death, attributed to complications from pneumonia, was unexpected and prompted remembrances from Marines and fans nationwide.

Rogin posted a statement on Ermey’s Facebook page, which by late night garnered more than 70,000 comments and was shared by more than 578,000 people:

“It is a terrible loss that nobody was prepared for. 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. He has also contributed many iconic and indelible characters on film that will live on forever. Gunnery Sergeant Hartman of Full Metal Jacket fame was a hard and principled man. The real R. Lee 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,” read the statement.
“There is a quote made famous in Full Metal Jacket. It’s actually the Riflemen’s Creed. ‘This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.’ There are many Gunny’s, but this one was OURS. And, we will honor his memory with hope and kindness. Please support your men and women in uniform. That’s what he wanted most of all. Semper Fi, Gunny. Godspeed.”

Tributes and remembrances came quickly across online social media websites for the actor whose role as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor and solidified his role as a model Marine disciplinarian and staff non-commissioned officer.

Ermey initially was to serve as a military technical adviser for the film but ended up auditioning for the role as Gunny Hartman, according to IMDb, the Internet Movie Database. The role came naturally to Ermey, who served as a DI during his Marine Corps career, which stretched from 1961 to 1972, and he later stepped into the world of acting. He had left the service as a staff sergeant but received an honorary promotion to gunnery sergeant by then-commandant, Gen. James L. Jones, in 2002.

The Vietnam War was still a national wound when the Stanley Kubrick-directed and produced film debuted in 1987 to critical acclaim, earning an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay. But for two generations, and countless recruit training platoons, Full Metal Jacket served as the de facto imagination of what boot camp is like, with biting insults and demeaning yet well-meaning treatment meant to strip one’s personality before relentless drills and physical training honed them into fighting Marines.

R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.

While Full Metal Jacket provided a Hollywood take on Marine Corps recruit training at Parris Island, S.C., and the Vietnam combat experience of 1968, the movie has had an untold, indelible effect on the Marine psyche ever since its release. Anyone who endured even a minute of recruit training or flirted with the thought of becoming a recruit is sure to have watched the film and can recall Gunny Hartman’s spit-spewing tirades.

Ermey’s Hollywood career, rooted strongly in his portrayal of a drill instructor in the movie Full Metal Jacket, earned him lifelong accolades and the Marine Corps’ honorary bestowal of the rank of gunnery sergeant. His Hollywood career was peppered by acting roles in film and on television, as well as voice roles and commercials. In recent years, he hosted the show “Lock N’ Load with R. Lee Ermey” on the History Channel and, until his death, “Gunny Time” on the Outdoor Channel.

Ermey’s survivors include his wife, Marianila, and six children, according to an obituary in The New York Times.

  • THOR HAMMERSTRONG

    RIP Gunny

  • Edward J. Palumbo

    Too soon. It’s time for the Gunny to stand down and I’m saddened to learn of it. It’s a time when many of our contemporaries and peers are crossing the river. Enjoy the peace we’d all hoped for in this life.

  • SolarWarden

    This one hurts. Every time I see Gunny on tv it just reminds me of my dad and brothers taking me to MCAS and Camp Pendleton to check out equipment and watch Marines land their F-18’s. I met Gunny (just shake hands) a couple of times and was supposed to be appear with other kids on an Episode of Mail Call but got sick the day before. Dad and brothers served in USMC and as a kid those were the best years and when Gunny is on tv that’s where it takes me back to.

    RIP Gunnery Sergeant Ronald Lee Ermey.

    • Rocco

      Too bad…..I remember that show! Used to watch it on Saturday mornings!

  • Schiele

    I’d like to offer my heartfelt condolences to the family and dear friends of Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey. He will live on in the memories of countless friends and fans. There’s a new star in the heavens and he will shine brightly upon us all.

    Semper Fi, Gunny

  • Robert

    RIP Gunny, you will be missed by all Marines. Semper Fi

  • Horn

    “In space, nobody can hear you scream unless it is the battle cry of the United States Marines!”
    RIP Gunny

  • tun tavern

    Sad news. Always liked watching and listening to “the Gunny.” He certainly reminded me of my time in the Green Machine. Semper Fi.

  • Marcd30319

    The genuine article. Semper Fi, indeed!

    • Rocco

      Kudos!!⚓️

  • publius_maximus_III

    My wife and I visited Parris Island last year during a weekend trip to Beaufort, SC. What an amazing place. Will always remember their USMC museum.

    We drove by a stadium on our way off the Depot, with stacked rifles spaced out along the front being carefully guarded at each end by two armed pickets, while the other recruits were being drilled out on the grinder. A sobering final reminder: this was no game, these men and women were being trained to kill our nation’s enemies, pure and simple.

    Later on, we thanked a young boot camp graduate being treated to dinner by his family in a nice restaurant along the waterfront in Beaufort. God bless Gunney’s family, the USMC, and the country they all serve.

  • James Bowen

    This is shock. I am sorry to see this. Fair winds and Following Seas, R. Lee Ermey.

  • Curtis Conway

    Gunny is Gone! G-d’s Marine is home. Heaven will be a safer place.

    • publius_maximus_III

      “If the Army and the Navy
      Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
      They will find the streets are guarded
      By United States Marines.”

      • Vince Ortega

        TO SAINT PETER I SHELL TELL—ANOTHER MARINE REPORTING, I HAVE SERVE MY TIME IN HELL–SEMPER-FI

      • GaryLockhart

        The actual third verse:

        Here’s health to you and to our Corps
        Which we are proud to serve;
        In many a strife we’ve fought for life
        And never lost our nerve;
        If the Army and the Navy
        Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
        They will find the streets are guarded
        By United States Marines.”

        • publius_maximus_III

          Thanks, GL. Corrected.

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    “Now you listen to me, and you listen good. I want that weapon. And I want it NOW.” —— Just the baddest of the badassnesss possible.

    • Rocco

      Stupid too put the lines on here from the movie just before Pvt Pyle kills Gunny!!

  • Eyes open

    RIP. We have the watch.

  • Leroy

    I have to be honest, complications from pneumonia? What is that? R Lee must have been in tip-top shape. What, did he go out without a jacket, catch a bad cold that progressed into something worse, then his lungs filled with fluid? This is something I can’t get my arms around. A guy in his shape. How could this happen?

    Anyway, loved him in all his roles, he was a natural in front of the camera, and he will be sorely missed. Fair winds and following seas Marine. No doubt God has a new Marine uniform fully pressed and waiting for you. Ribbons in correct order of course. Just don’t yell too much at St Peter when you approach The Gate because maybe his robe is not pressed up to USMC standards. That might cause a slight delay while he runs to go get it fixed. Wouldn’t want that. Oh, and send Chesty our best! : )

    PS. Everyone remember to get your pneumonia shots.

    • Rocco

      Shape physically has nothing to do with it. I just got over the flu from 3 weeks back! I’m in great shape better than the average person my age! This F.. ked up weather doesn’t help.

  • Robert Johnson

    “Full Metal Jacket served as the de facto imagination of what boot camp is like, with biting insults and demeaning yet well-meaning treatment meant to strip one’s personality before relentless drills and physical training honed them into fighting Marines.”

    There is no imagination in the portrayal of Marine Corps boot camp in the movie,
    this was boot camp in the 60’s.

    • Rocco

      Did you ever see the movie!!!???? Jackwagon!!! Yeah Gunny’s own words in the commercial made …..& Applies to you!!

  • Rocco

    Kudos!! ⚓️🇱🇷

  • Western

    The US Navy needs to think long and hard about what future ship is going to be worthy of the name Ermy.