Gunnery Sergeant R Lee Ermey – Reported for Duty in Heaven, He Served His Time in Hell

By Faye Higbee

The Gunny, R Lee Ermey reported for duty in heaven on April 15, 2018, at the age of 74. He was a legend in his own time, an accomplishment that few people, including politicians, can match. But above all, he was a United States Marines and proud of it. He passed away from complications due to pneumonia.

“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.” Bill Rogin, Ermey’s manager

A US Marine through and through

Ermey was such a problem as a teenager that after his 2nd arrest for “criminal mischief,” a judge gave him the choice: jail or military. Obviously, he chose the military. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1961 at age 17, and was sent to training at San Diego, where he served in aviation support. By 1965 he became a drill instructor with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion -which is where he learned that iconic way of yelling that became part of so many of his characters.

One friend posted this yesterday: “R.I.P, Gunny. It was an honor to be ripped by you.”

Assigned to Okinawa in 1968, he was ordered to Vietnam with MWSG-17 (Marine Wing Support group 17). He spent 14 months in country. After Vietnam, he spent time again in Okinawa, where he was promoted to Staff Sergeant. He was medically discharged in 1972 from “severe injuries incurred during his service.” He was granted the promotion to Gunnery Sergeant on an honorary basis by the Commandant of the Marine Corps in 2002.

He began a film career with the movie “Apocalypse Now” – a Vietnam war flick by Francis Ford Coppola. He played in several minor films after that, but it was the film “Full Metal Jacket” by Stanley Kubrick that launched his career. He received a Golden Globe nomination for his role. The New York Times referred to him as “obscene” as the drill instructor in that movie. No, he was a Marine.

Eventually he would play characters in 60 films, lending his voice to flicks like “Toy Story”, and even having two documentary series: Mail Call and Lock N Load with R. Lee Ermey, as well as several others.


GySgt Ronald Lee Ermey was a classic Marine. Marines tend to be tough and strong on the outside, but like a marshmallow that’s been crusted over from being roasted in a campfire, they’re also often soft and gooey on the inside.

“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.” Bill Rogin

And one thing everyone knew… and respected, was that he loved the troops. R.I.P., Gunny.