The legend has it that when Stanley Kubrick hired R. Lee Ermey, an 11-year Marine Corps veteran, to be a technical adviser on his Vietnam War epic, “Full Metal Jacket,” he was so impressed by a demonstration of what a drill instructor does to recruits that he hired him to play a character in the movie. Ermey got a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal as a sadistic Vietnam War era DI who so thoroughly turns a hapless, overweight recruit into a killing machine that he found himself as the private’s first victim. Thus, Ermey lucked into his second career, playing a series of military and law enforcement authority figures in numerous movies and TV shows as well as himself on a number of reality shows.

Ermey, the actor, was Ermey, the man.

Ermey invariably played supporting roles that his distinct persona and dialogue delivery (loud and to the point) made memorable. Some of his appearances took place in Vietnam, some in the future, such as Ermey’s voice role in “Starship Troopers: The Roughneck Chronicles” and an uncredited appearance in “Space Above and Beyond.” At least twice he was the stern, authoritarian parent of a more famous actor, Bruce Campbell’s in “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.” and Hugh Laurie’s in an episode of “House M.D.”

Ermey played himself in a number of reality shows such as “Lock and Load,” “Mail Call,” and “Gunny Time.” These shows explored military hardware, both modern and historical, with the “Gunny’s” particular enthusiasm for things that caused destruction, death, and loud explosions.

He would use melons for target practice, and none were safe when he had to demonstrate any long-range killing device.

Ermey blacklisted in Hollywood

The cliché about modern Hollywood is that whereas communists were blacklisted in the fifties conservatives are now getting the same treatment. Ermey, never shy, was outspoken in his political beliefs, including his criticism of President Barack Obama, He was also a board member of the National Rifle Association, the most hated group among the left.

Ermey has stated more than once he lost roles as a result of his politics.

Ermey is now on a new posting

Ermey has died from complications of pneumonia, much to the surprise of virtually everyone who thought the man indestructible. The last verse of the Marine Corps Hymn goes like this:

“If the Army and the Navy

Ever look on Heaven's scenes,

They will find the streets are guarded

By United States Marines.”

The afterlife detachment of Marines now has a new commander, may God help them. Semper Fi, Gunny. Rest not so much in peace but in happiness.