Fitz in the Morning: Troop Salute

R. Lee Ermey of the USMC

Today we salute one of the most recognizable United States Marines to ever wear the uniform: Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey. “Gunny”, as he liked to be called, became the essence of the Marines in the eyes of the American public, when he stepped into the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987 Stanley Kubrick film “Full Metal Jacket”. R. Lee started life on a Kansas farm in 1944 and in 1958 moved with his family to a small town in Washington State where he got into repeated scrapes with the local law until a judge offered him a choice: jail or enlisting in the military; he chose to enlist. R. Lee Ermey went to Boot Camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and then served in the aviation support field until he was assigned back to MCRD as a Drill Instructor from 1965 to 1967. Then-Sergeant Ermey was stationed in Okinawa in support of MWSG-17 and in 1968 was sent to Vietnam where he spent 14 months In Country. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant during his time in Okinawa but in 1972 was medically discharged as a result of numerous injuries. Ermey then moved to the Philippines where he attended the University of Manila on the G.I. Bill and had his first brush with Hollywood when he was asked to be the technical advisor on Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” being filmed there. But Ermey changed the movie world forever when he was hired as a technical advisor to Stanley Kubrick’s film “Full Metal Jacket”. When Kubrick saw Ermey’s instructional tape on how to act like a drill instructor, he knew that no one else could play the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. R. Lee Ermey was granted the honorary rank of Gunnery Sergeant by The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James L. Jones in 2002. He went on to act in dozens of movies and television projects, playing military roles, cops, judges, and authority figures in movies like “Seven”, “Mississippi Burning”, “Miami Vice”, and many more. He also voiced the plastic green soldiers in all of the “Toy Story” movies as well as characters in “Sponge Bob”, “The Simpsons”, and “Family Guy”. On April 15, 2018 at the age of 74, Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey passed away from complications related to pneumonia in a Santa Monica Hospital. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington D.C.