Military Wiki
R. Lee Ermey
Ermey aboard USS Belleau Wood in 2005
Born Ronald Lee Ermey
(1944-03-24)March 24, 1944
Emporia, Kansas, U.S.
Died April 15, 2018(2018-04-15) (aged 74)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery[1]
Occupation Actor, voice artist, drill instructor, United States Marine
Years active 1978–2017
Political party Independent[2]
Spouse(s) Nila Ermey (m. 1975)
Children 4
Military career
Nickname "Gunny"
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1961–1972
Rank USMC-E6.svg Staff sergeant
USMC-E7.svg Gunnery sergeant (honorary)
Unit India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion
Marine Wing Support Group 17
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Meritorious Unit Commendation
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross

Ronald Lee Ermey (March 24, 1944 – April 15, 2018) was an American actor and voice actor. He achieved fame when he played Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, which earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination for for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture. Ermey was also a United States Marine Corps staff sergeant and an honorary gunnery sergeant. During his tenure in the U.S. Marine Corps, he served as a drill instructor.

Ermey was often typecast in authority figure roles, such as Mayor Tilman in the film Mississippi Burning, Bill Bowerman in Prefontaine, Sheriff Hoyt in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Jimmy Lee Farnsworth in Fletch Lives, a police captain in Se7en, plastic army men leader Sarge in the Toy Story films, Lt. "Tice" Ryan in Rocket Power, the warden in SpongeBob SquarePants, and John House in House.

Ermey hosted two programs on the History Channel: Mail Call, in which he answered viewers' questions about various military issues both modern and historic; and Lock n' Load with R. Lee Ermey, which concerned the development of different types of weapons. He also hosted GunnyTime on the Outdoor Channel.

Early life

Ermey was born Ronald Lee Ermey in Emporia, Kansas on March 24, 1944. He grew up with five brothers on a farm outside of Kansas City, Kansas.[3] In 1958, when Ermey was 14, he and his family left Kansas and moved to Zillah, Washington.[3][4] As a teenager, Ermey often got in trouble with the local authorities, and was arrested twice for criminal mischief by age 17.[3] After his second arrest, a judge gave him a choice between joining the military or being sent to jail; Ermey chose the military.[3]

Military career

U.S. Marine Corps

In 1961, at age 17, Ermey enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and went through recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in San Diego, California.[3] For his first few years, he served in the aviation support field before becoming a drill instructor in India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, where he was assigned from 1965 to 1967.[5]

Ermey then served in Marine Wing Support Group 17 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan.[3] In 1968, he was ordered to Vietnam with MWSG-17, and spent 14 months in country. The remainder of his service was on Okinawa where he was advanced to staff sergeant (E-6). He was medically discharged in 1972 because of several injuries incurred during his service.[6] On May 17, 2002, he received an honorary promotion to gunnery sergeant (E-7) by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James L. Jones.[7]

Acting career


Ermey loading ammunition for the Bofors 40 mm gun aboard a Lockheed AC-130H "Spectre" Gunship in 2006

Ermey was cast in his first film while attending the University of Manila in the Philippines, using his G.I. Bill benefits.[8] He portrayed a First Air Cavalry chopper pilot in Apocalypse Now,[9] doubling as a technical advisor to director Francis Ford Coppola. Ermey was then cast as a Marine drill instructor in Sidney J. Furie's The Boys in Company C.

For the next few years, Ermey played a series of minor film roles until 1987, when he was cast as drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.[9] Initially, he was intended to be only the technical advisor.[9] Kubrick changed his mind after Ermey put together an instructional tape, in which he went on an extended tirade towards several extras, convincing Kubrick he was the right man for the role.[9] Seeking authenticity for the film, Kubrick allowed Ermey to write or edit his own dialogue and improvise on the set, a notable rarity in a Kubrick film.[10] Kubrick later indicated that Ermey was an excellent performer, often needing just two or three takes per scene, also unusual for a Kubrick film.[11] Ermey's performance won critical raves and he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture.

Ermey later portrayed a drill instructor in the pilot episode of Space: Above and Beyond and the ghost of Master Sergeant Hiles in The Frighteners, both similar to his character in Full Metal Jacket.[12] Ermey subsequently appeared in about 60 films, including Purple Hearts, Mississippi Burning, 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.

Ermey also lent his voice to The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Toy Story 3, as well as Roughnecks and X-Men 3. He usually appears in a commanding military role, for such series as Kim Possible, The Simpsons, Family Guy, SpongeBob SquarePants, Miami Vice, House, Scrubs, My Life as a Teenage Robot, and Invader Zim. In addition, he hosted Mail Call and Lock n' Load with R. Lee Ermey.


On December 14, 1994, Ermey portrayed a sheriff in Tales from the Crypt, season six, episode nine, "Staired in Horror." He also played the role of Reverend Patrick Findley, a minister, in The X-Files season 3, episode 11, "Revelations."[13] On Mail Call, Ermey discussed weaponry, tactical matters, and military history. Mail Call's subject matter was dictated by viewer emails; one episode focused on an M1 Abrams tank, while others involved World War II secrets, and others focused on elements of medieval warfare. The set consisted of a military tent, other military gear and weapons, and a World War II jeep.

He traveled to Kuwait in June 2003 during the first phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom to film mail distribution by the Defense Department to service personnel for an episode of Mail Call. According to a 2005 episode of Mail Call filmed at Whiteman Air Force Base, he was the 341st person to fly in the B-2 stealth bomber. He also guest-starred in the Human Target episode "Second Chance."

Ermey also made guest appearances in House, playing the role of Dr. Gregory House's father, who was a decorated naval aviator while serving in the Marine Corps ("Birthmarks," "Daddy's Boy"), and Scrubs, playing the Janitor's father. He also voiced Wildcat in several episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. In the Simpsons episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming," Ermey voiced Colonel Leslie "Hap" Hapablap.

In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Inmates of Summer," he voiced an irate warden of a maximum-security island prison who demoralized the inmates whenever he could. In the Angry Beavers episode "Fancy Prance," he voiced the Lipizzaner stallions' instructor Drill Sergeant Goonther.

In 2009, Ermey hosted a second History Channel show entitled Lock n' Load with R. Lee Ermey, which discussed the history of various weapons used by militaries of today.[14]

In late 2010, he starred in a GEICO commercial as a drill-instructor-turned-therapist who insults a client, in a parody of some of his iconic characters.[9] Ermey was also featured each week on ESPN's College GameDay. His role was to insult the experts' incorrect picks from the previous week. In that same year, Ermey appeared in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Trophy" as a paroled sex offender.

In 2011, he starred as a drill instructor on the X-Play special on Bulletstorm. In the Family Guy episode "Grumpy Old Man," Ermey guest-starred, again as a drill instructor.[15]

Ermey served as host of GunnyTime, a program that debuted on Outdoor Channel in 2015.[16]

Video games

In 1993, Ermey voiced Lyle the Handyman in Double Switch, a game also starring Corey Haim and Debbie Harry.

Ermey lent his voice to several video games, including Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel (as General Barnaky) and Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex (as Wa-Wa). He also made a cameo in Real War: Air, Land, Sea, a retail real-time strategy computer game based on the official Joint Chiefs of Staff training game. In 2014, he did voice-over work for Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Several characters have made references to Ermey and the character of Hartman. In the game Fallout 3, a recruitable companion is named Sergeant RL-3, a modified military robot with a personality very similar to Ermey (the companion's name is a reference to Ermey's initials wherein the 3 is leetspeak for the letter E). In the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion is a character named Lieutenant Emry that speaks some of Ermey's signature lines from Full Metal Jacket. In Half-Life: Opposing Force, the drill sergeant from the initial boot camp stage had dialogue and mannerisms very similar to Ermey's character in Full Metal Jacket.


Ermey was an official spokesman for Black Book (National Auto Research), Glock firearms, TRU-SPEC apparel, Tupperware, Victory Motorcycles, Hoover, SOG Specialty Knives, WD-40, Young Marines, and appeared in commercials for Coors Light, Dick's Sporting Goods, GEICO, and pistachio nuts. He provided the introduction for the Professional Bull Riders.[17] He can be seen giving a service announcement for Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, demanding that viewers be quiet during the film.[18] He was a board member for the National Rifle Association.[19]

Business venture

Ermey was a co-founder of Bravery Brewing in Lancaster, California.[20]

Political views

Ermey described himself as an independent. In 2008, he voted for Barack Obama, but subsequently criticized his policies.[3] Ermey said in an interview earlier in 2015 that he supported Ted Cruz for President. He said, "You know what, I just watched Ted Cruz — I mean, what a tough act to follow. I'm not going to tell you who I'm going to vote for, but I'm going to let you guess [...] and the first two guesses don't count!".[21]

Toys for Tots speech

On December 10, 2010, Ermey denounced the Obama administration's economic policies while speaking at a Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots rally, stating that it was difficult to raise money for the charity, because "the economy sucks". He went on to say:

We should all rise up, and we should stop this administration from what they're doing because they're destroying this country. They're driving us into bankruptcy so that they can impose socialism on us, and that's exactly what they're doing, and I'm sick and damn tired of it and I know you are too.[22]

In January 2011, Ermey posted an apology on his website, saying:

I regret that I delivered a monologue that was inappropriately critical of the President. My comments were misguided and emotionally biased, and for that I am truly sorry.[23]

In spite of his apology, Ermey later told TMZ that he was fired by GEICO, for whom he made the above-mentioned 2010 "Drill Sergeant" commercial, because of his political beliefs.[24] The insurance giant also removed Ermey's commercial from their official YouTube channel.[citation needed]

He subsequently stated that his anti-Obama views had caused him to be blackballed by Hollywood, resulting in a lack of new film roles for him.[2]

Ermey knew Donald Trump Jr. and stated he was confident that should Donald Trump become president, "our Second Amendment rights are solid as a rock."[25]

Military appearances

On May 17, 2002, Ermey received an honorary post-service promotion to gunnery sergeant (E-7) from the Commandant of the Marine Corps General James L. Jones in recognition of his continuing support to Americans in military service.[7]

He conducted morale tours, visiting United States troops in locations such as Al Kut, Iraq, and Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in which he filmed parts for his television show Mail Call. While at Bagram Airfield, he held a USO-type show in which he portrayed GySgt Hartman and conducted a comedy routine. He also did the same at Doha, Qatar and Camp Doha, Kuwait City, Kuwait, in 2003.

Personal life

In 1975, Ermey married his wife Nila. They had four children together.[26]


On the morning of April 15, 2018, Ermey died at a hospital in Santa Monica, California from complications related to pneumonia. He was 74 years old.[27][28] His funeral was held in Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, January 18, 2019 where his ashes are buried.[29]

Awards and decorations

Ermey during the United States Marine Corps birthday ball

Ermey was retroactively awarded the Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon after he retired from the military due to his prior service as a Marine Corps recruit training instructor. Ermey's military awards included:[6]

1st row Meritorious Unit Commendation Good Conduct Medal w/ two 316" bronze stars National Defense Service Medal
2nd row Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Vietnam Service Medal w/ one 316" silver star South Vietnamese Presidential Unit Citation
3rd row Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon South Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm South Vietnamese Campaign Medal with 1960-Device
Badges Rifle Marksman Badge Pistol Sharpshooter Badge


Year Title Role Notes
1978 The Boys in Company C Staff Sergeant Loyce
1979 Apocalypse Now Eagle Thrust Seven helicopter pilot Uncredited
Up from the Depths Lee
1984 Purple Hearts Gunny
1987 Full Metal Jacket Gunnery Sergeant Hartman Credited as "Lee Ermey"
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Miami Vice Detective Sergeant Ernest Haskell Episode: "Rising Sun of Death"
1988 Mississippi Burning Mayor Tilman
1989 The Siege of Firebase Gloria Sergeant Major Bill Hafner / Narrator Uncredited screenwriter
Fletch Lives Jimmy Lee Farnsworth
1990 Demonstone Colonel Joe Haines
The Rift Captain Phillips
The Take Weller Television film
I'm Dangerous Tonight Lieutenant Ackman Television film
Kid Luke
83 Hours 'Til Dawn Glen Fairling Television film
1991 The Terror Within II Von Demming
Toy Soldiers General Kramer
True Identity Houston's Boss Uncredited
1993 Hexed Detective Ferguson
Sommersby Dick Mead
Body Snatchers General Platt
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. Marshal Brisco County Senior 2 episodes
Double Switch Lyle (the handyman) Video Game
1994 French Silk Chief Crowder Television film
Chain of Command Benjamin Brewster
On Deadly Ground Stone
Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story Mr. Byrd Uncredited
Television film
Naked Gun 33 13: The Final Insult Mess Hall Guard Uncredited cameo
Love Is a Gun Frank Deacon
Tales from the Crypt Sheriff Episode: "Staired in Horror"
1995 Murder in the First Judge Clawson
Savate Benedict Short film
Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back Preacher Brian Uncredited
Seven Police Captain
Leaving Las Vegas Conventioneer
Space: Above and Beyond Sergeant Major Bougus Television film
Under the Hula Moon Lt. Col. J. P. McIntire
Toy Story Sarge Voice
The X-Files Reverend Findley Episode: "Revelations"
Dead Man Walking Clyde Percy
Kidnapped Frank Television film
The Simpsons Colonel Leslie "Hap" Hapablap Voice
Episode: "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming"
1996 Soul of the Game Wilkie Television film
The Frighteners The late Master Sergeant Hiles
1997 Prefontaine Bill Bowerman
Dead Men Can't Dance Sen. Pullman T. Fowler
Weapons of Mass Distraction Billy Paxton Television film
Switchback Sheriff Buck Olmstead
The Angry Beavers Sergeant Goonther Voice
Episode: "Fancy Prance/H2Whoa!"
Starship Troopers News Announcer Uncredited voice
Rough Riders Secretary of State John Hay 2 episodes
1997–1998 Cracker Lieutenant Fry 16 episodes
1998 The Sender Colonel Rosewater
Gunshy Jerry
1999 You Know My Name Nix Television film
Life Older Sheriff Pike
Avalanche Gary
Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot General Thorton Voice
26 episodes
The Apartment Complex Frank Stanton Television film
Toy Story 2 Sarge Voice
1999–2000 Roughnecks: STC Sky Marshall Sanchez Voice
4 episodes
2000 The Chaos Factor Col. Ben Wilder
Skipped Parts Caspar Callahan
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins Sarge Voice
Jericho Marshall
2001 Saving Silverman Coach Norton
Recess: School's Out Colonel O'Malley Voice
Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel General Barnaky Voice
Video game
Real War: Rogue States Briefings Voice
Video game
Real War: Air, Land, Sea
Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 President Richard Benson
Scenes of the Crime Mr. Parker
Family Guy Coach Voice
Episode: "Mr. Saturday Knight"
Taking Sides General Wallace
On the Borderline Captain Elias
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex Wa-Wa the Water Elemental Voice
Video game
2002 Run Ronnie Run! Lead Kidnapper Cameo
The Salton Sea Verne Plummer
Scrubs Janitor's father Episode: "My Old Man"
Frank McKlusky, C.I. Jockey Master Uncredited cameo
Invader Zim Sergeant Hobo 678 Voice
Episode: "HOBO 13/Walk for Your Lives"
A.K.A. Birdseye Sheriff Gathers
2003 Toy Story: Buzz Lightyear's Blast Up Together Sarge Voice
Willard Frank Martin
Fillmore! Colonel Thrift Voice
Episode: "South of Friendship, North of Honor"
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Sheriff Hoyt Nominated – Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actor
Kim Possible General Sims Voice
2 episodes
2004 Y.M.I. John
The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy Drill Sergeant Voice
Episode: "Bully Boogie/Here Thar Be Dwarves"
Father of the Pride Sergeant Bunny Voice
Episode: "One Man's Meat Is Another Man's Girlfriend"
2005, 2008 House John House 2 episodes
2005 Man of the House Captain Nichols
2006 X-Men: The Last Stand Sergeant Voice cameo
Shark Bait Jack Voice
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning Charlie Hewitt / Sheriff Hoyt
2007 SpongeBob SquarePants Prison Warden Voice
Episode: "The Inmates of Summer"
2008 Solstice Leonard
Eleventh Hour Bob Henson Episode: "Agro"
2009 Lock n' Load with R. Lee Ermey Himself (host) 13 episodes
2009–2011 Batman: The Brave and the Bold Wildcat Voice
4 episodes
2010 Toy Story 3 Sarge Voice
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Walter Burlock Episode: "Trophy"
2011 Family Guy Drill Sergeant with Alzheimer's Disease Voice
Episode: "Grumpy Old Man"
2012 The Watch Manfred
2012–2015 Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness General Tsin Voice
3 episodes
2013 Call of Duty: Ghosts Drill Instructor DLC Voice
Video game
2015–2017 GunnyTime Himself (host) 31 episodes
2015 The Simpsons Colonel Leslie "Hap" Hapablap Voice
Episode: "Waiting for Duffman"
2016 Military Makeover Himself (host) [30][31]

Other media

  • Ermey recorded voice lines for a "talking" 12-inch tall "motivational action figure" depicting him in USMC drill instructor uniform, which replays his signature put-downs with the press of an electronic button on the back. Sideshow Collectibles manufactured the figure in two versions, one with (somewhat) family-friendly language and one with "extra-salty" remarks that include profanity; the latter is packaged with an R rating as a warning to consumers. One of these figures appears occasionally on Mail Call, wherein it is often referred to as "Mini-Lee" by the host and is sometimes seen berating a G.I. Joe.
  • In the early 1990s, Ermey appeared as a Martian pilot in a training video for Virtual World Entertainment's game Red Planet, alongside other actors, such as Cheech Marin, Nora Dunn, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Joan Severance, and Judge Reinhold.
  • In the Green Lantern series of comics published by DC, it is revealed that Green Lantern Kilowog (who trains all new Green Lantern recruits) was in turn trained by a Green Lantern named Ermey.
  • He had a notable appearance on The Howard Stern Show in October 2002, appearing as Sgt. Hartman.
  • He provided the voice of the DLC drill instructor in Call of Duty: Ghosts.
  • Ermey starred in an instructional training video for Lockheed Martin dealing with the problems caused by Foreign Object Damage in manufacturing military equipment.


  1. ‘Gunny’ to be laid to rest in Arlington
  2. 2.0 2.1 Savitsky, Sasha (July 5, 2016). "'GunnyTime' host R. Lee Ermey 'blackballed' from Hollywood for conservative views". Fox News Channel. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Cooper, Steve (September 2010). "Gunny R. Lee Ermey Unplugged". The First Shot. Civilian Marksmanship Program. 
  4. Hartl, John (July 9, 1987). "'Full Metal Jacket' was an old drill for this ex-Marine". The Seattle Times. p. F3. 
  5. "'Mail Call' star Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey dies; actor had Kansas roots". The Wichita Eagle. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "R. Lee Ermey's Bio". 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Marine, Actor R. Lee Ermey Dies at 74". USNI News. 
  8. "Death of 'Full Metal Jacket' star R. Lee Ermey, who delivered one of the filthiest monologues in film history". South China Morning Post. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Clark, Doug (August 31, 2010). "'Gunny' has a terrifying bark, but he won't bite". Archived from the original on April 24, 2011. 
  10. "The legend of R Lee Ermey, 'Full Metal Jacket' drill sergeant". SBS. 
  11. "The Kubrick Site: The Rolling Stone Interview". 
  12. "Space: Above and Beyond". Variety. September 25, 1995. 
  13. "R. Lee Ermey, 'Full Metal Jacket' Actor, Dead at 74". Rolling Stone. April 16, 2018. 
  14. "Actor R. Lee Ermey of 'Full Metal Jacket' dies at 74". ABC7. 
  15. "Family Guy Season 10, Episode 9 Grumpy Old Man". TV Guide. 
  16. "GunnyTime with R. Lee Ermey". Outdoor Channel. 
  17. "Ermy, Allan Join PBR TV Broadcasts". Professional Bull Riders. January 6, 2011. Archived from the original on March 8, 2016.,-allan-join-pbr-tv-broadcasts.aspx. 
  18. Drafthouse PSAs Archived November 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. Echols, Tucker (February 15, 2012). "NRA aims to 'Trigger the Vote' with voter registration drive". Washington Business Journal. 
  20. "Bravery Brewing". 
  21. "R. Lee Ermey on Ted Cruz". Sportsman. April 16, 2015. 
  22. "Full Metal Jacket R Lee Ermey Rips into Obama Administration". Archived from the original on January 4, 2011. 
  23. "Military Daily News". 
  24. "Famous Drill Instructor Says GEICO Fired Him for Criticizing Obama Admin.". TheBlaze. August 26, 2012. 
  25. "Iconic Marine Sgt. R. Lee Ermey of 'Gunny Time' Reveals the One Firearm He'd Choose if He Could Have Only One". January 20, 2016. 
  26. Southern, Nathan. "R. Lee Ermey Biography". Rovi. 
  27. Stevens, Matt (April 15, 2018). "R. Lee Ermey, Harsh Drill Instructor in 'Full Metal Jacket,' Dies at 74". The New York Times. 
  28. "R. Lee Ermey, Golden Globe Nominee for 'Full Metal Jacket,' Dies at 74". The Hollywood Reporter. April 15, 2018. 
  29. Pawlyk, Oriana. "Family, Fans Attend R. Lee Ermey's Funeral at Arlington Cemetery". 
  30. "About Military Makeover". Lifetime. 
  31. "R. Lee Ermey". BFI. 

External links

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