By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven
"This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine."
This is a classic quote – now lodged in the minds of millions over a span of many decades.
“Full Metal Jacket’s” Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, known as “Gunny,” shocked some, inspired others and amused and entertained millions.
Gunny’s legacy has now found a permanent resting place in the hearts of many. Lee Ermey passed away from complications from pneumonia April 5, 2018.
Over the years, “Full Metal Jacket,” has become an iconic film, widely revered and often quoted by fans. The film offers a compelling depiction of the trials and perils of becoming a United States Marine.
With hardcore discipline, an unrelenting intensity and the motivational disparagement known to characterize many Corps drill sergeants, Gunny encouraged the Marines in the film to embrace their inner warrior, connect with their rifles and acclimate to the high expectations of becoming a Marine.
At one point in Full Metal Jacket, Gunny famously berates an overweight Marine for hiding a “jelly donut.”
“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,” Lee Ermey's long-time manager, Bill Rogin, said in a statement on Facebook.
Gunny brought an authenticity to his role as Sergeant Hartman, having himself served in Vietnam as a Marine. Ermey spent eleven years in the Marine Corps, according to his online biography. Two of these years, in fact, were spent as a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
Ermey then arrived in Vietnam in 1968, spending 14 months attached to Marine Wing Support Group 17 followed by 2 tours in Okinawa. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant and was medically retired for injuries received, his website reports.
Marine Corps officials confirmed to Warrior Maven that Ermey was a “Rifleman” and “Repair Shop Mechanic.” Officials also provided information on his awards, which included: Good Conduct Medal (x2); National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal with Bronze Star; Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device; Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit; Meritorious Unit; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Meritorious Unit Citation
On May 17, 2002, he received an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant (E-7) by Commandant James L. Jones, becoming the first retiree in the history of the Marines to be promoted.
“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,” Rogan’s statement continues.
Along these lines, Gunny’s commitment to the U.S. military expands far beyond his role in “Full Metal Jacket.” Ermey devoted years of his life helping Marines and the U.S. military. He served as a spokesperson for the Young Marines Youth Organization, made countless personal appearance at military events and even made several trips to the Middle East to support U.S. troops in wartime.
Overall, Ermey has starred in more than 60 films, including the well-known “Apocalypse Now.”
Ermey starred in “Saving Silverman”, with Jason Biggs, Jack Black, Steve Zahn and Amanda Peet. Lee appeared opposite Jeff Bridges in “Scenes of the Crime” and Harvey Keitel in “Taking Sides”.
Ultimately, while his physical presence may have left, Gunny’s devotion, inspirational spirit and commitment to the U.S. military is, without question, something which will endure.
“He will be greatly missed by all of us,” Rogan says.
“My rifle, without me is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless.”