Screen icon of the Marine Corps R. Lee Ermey has died

Having missed the movie Full Metal Jacket, I first encountered R. Lee Ermey in his role as host of the History Channel series, Mail Call, and immediately became a devoted fan. His character was known simply as “Gunny,” referring  to his real life status as a veteran Gunnery Sergeant – a title that evokes awe in the eyes of anyone who knows what it means and implies.

Here is the scene in Full Metal Jacket that ensured Ermey's cinematic immortality:

In the History Channel series, he fielded questions from viewers and explained or demonstrated all sorts of interesting things about military weaponry and life. There was a huge wink to viewers in his performances on the series, revealing the self-deprecating and warm man that lived beneath the exterior of a hard ass. My son (with whom I watched the series religiously) and I both adored him, understanding that he was real: A genuine warrior, and a genuine human being.

Master Sergeant Ermey’s passing is being noted with great sadness by his colleagues, some of them very famous.





Even though I never met him, and never could claim the honor of being a Marine, I feel a real loss. Very few actors have had the ability to leap from the screen into the minds of viewers the way R. Lee Ermey did. His evident high level of self-awareness is the frosting on the cake of a great star and a great warrior.

Rest in peace.