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R. Lee ‘Gunny’ Ermey would’ve turned 78 today

Actor and Marine Corps icon Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey gives an "Oorah" aboard USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick M. Johnson-Campbell)
March 24, 2022

Marine Corps veteran R. Lee Ermey, beloved actor and staple of American culture, would’ve celebrated his 78th birthday on March 24, 2022.

Ermey was born March 24, 1944 and died April 15, 2018, at age 74 due to complications from pneumonia. He had achieved notoriety for his role as Gny. Sgt. Hartman in the movie “Full Metal Jacket,” which was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globe Awards in 1988, the year after its release.

Ermey served 11 years in the Marine Corps, including a 14-month deployment to Vietnam, and another deployment to Okinawa. He was a drill instructor, and received a promotion to staff sergeant shortly before his separation in 1972 due to injuries sustained in service.

After he retired, Ermey became the only Marine to receive an honorary promotion to gunnery sergeant.

His career as a drill instructor served as the inspiration behind his Full Metal Jacket role, with the infamous opening scene that has been a staple in military culture.

Ermey appeared in more than 60 films and television shows, including Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, Purple Hearts, Mississippi Burning, Toy Story 2, The Siege of Firebase Gloria, Dead Man Walking, Se7en, Fletch Lives, Leaving Las Vegas, Prefontaine, Saving Silverman, On Deadly Ground, Sommersby, Life, Man of the House, Toy Soldiers and The Salton Sea, as well as the remake of Willard, and as an evil sadist in two The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films.

He hosted television shows including Mail Call and Lock ‘N Load With R. Lee Ermey.

He also provided the voice for numerous animated television shows and video games, including Call of Duty: Ghosts.

In January 2019, he received full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery with nearly 100 in attendance for the service that included a firing squad, flag presentation, and more.