R. Lee Ermey’s daughter recalls growing up with ‘Full Metal Jacket’ star, his dedication to the troops


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Betty Ermey says she nonetheless feels the larger-than-life presence of her beloved father, R. Lee Ermey, a Marine-turned-Hollywood star.

Ermey, who rose to fame on display because the no-nonsense drill teacher in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 movie “Full Steel Jacket,” handed away on April 15, 2018, at age 74 from pneumonia.

He’s survived by his spouse, two brothers, six kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, The New York Instances reported.

Betty Ermey together with her father R. Lee Ermey. — Courtesy of Betty Ermey


“I nonetheless really feel him round,” Betty advised Fox Information. “I nonetheless hear his voice. I used to be simply so fortunate. I’m grateful there’s a lot recording of him. As a result of on these days once I actually want to listen to his voice, I can. The household is simply so grateful.”

The Kansas native was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his memorable efficiency in “Full Steel Jacket,” through which he immortalized traces equivalent to: “What’s your main malfunction?”

R. Lee Ermey is best known for his role as a no-nonsense drill sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket."

R. Lee Ermey is finest identified for his position as a no-nonsense drill sergeant in “Full Steel Jacket.”
(Courtesy of Betty Ermey)

Born Ronald Lee Ermey in 1944, Ermey served 11 years within the Marine Corps and spent 14 months in Vietnam after which in Okinawa, Japan, the place he grew to become workers sergeant. His first movie credit score was as a helicopter pilot in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” which was rapidly adopted by a component in “The Boys in Firm C” as a drill teacher.

He raked in additional than 60 credit in movie and tv throughout his decades-long profession in Hollywood, typically enjoying authority figures in all the pieces from “Se7en” to “The Texas Chainsaw Bloodbath” remake.


Betty Ermey said she first realized her father, R. Lee Ermey was different when she was 5 years old.

Betty Ermey mentioned she first realized her father, R. Lee Ermey was totally different when she was 5 years previous.

Betty mentioned that it was at age 5 when she realized her father was peculiarly vocal — proper earlier than he obtained the decision from Kubrick. On the time, the household was residing in a small trailer in Illinois with a cornfield for a view. Ermey was working at an influence plant to assist assist his household.

“My dad had purchased us a soccer ball,” Betty recalled. “He was frightened about it being stolen. So he took a sharpie and wrote a bunch of issues on the soccer ball that most likely wasn’t applicable for teenagers. Nevertheless it was enjoyable for me as a result of I might learn. That’s once I realized my father was totally different from most dads.”

Earlier than Ermey discovered fame as an actor, he enlisted within the Marines at age 17, a choice he remained pleased with for the remainder of his life.

R. Lee Ermey joined the Marines at age 17.

R. Lee Ermey joined the Marines at age 17.
(Courtesy of Betty Ermey)

“He didn’t graduate from highschool,” Betty defined. “He enlisted within the Marines below court docket order. He was given the choice of both going to juvenile detention or becoming a member of the navy service. He went to the Navy recruit workplace, however they didn’t take him. So he went to the Marines recruit workplace… He was very athletic as a result of he grew up on a farm, so he was consistently doing farm work. The Marines took him and shipped him out.”


Ermey beforehand advised the New York Instances that his 11-year profession as a Marine was ended “by a rocket” in 1969. Nonetheless, he wouldn’t focus on the small print of the warfare. Betty shared Ermey was medically retired.

A young R. Lee Ermey in the Marines. — Courtesy of Betty Ermey

A younger R. Lee Ermey within the Marines. — Courtesy of Betty Ermey

“He needed to be a Marine for the remainder of his life,” she defined. “He didn’t know what else to do his life. However he knew he needed to remain linked with them in some way. He went to the Philippines to review drama. At that time within the ‘70s, a whole lot of Vietnam Conflict movies had been being filmed within the Phillippines. So he was in a position to become involved as a technical advisor, serving to out in these movies.”

By the point Ermey was in Illinois, Kubrick referred to as and requested him to move over to England for a technical advisor position in “Full Steel Jacket.” Betty mentioned her father was cautious on the prospect, believing it could have been a danger to depart behind his steady job on the energy plant for the sake of his rising household. Nonetheless, he took the prospect to additional pursue his dream.

“He was an everyday man with an everyday job,” mentioned Betty. “However this was his dream… He had been a drill teacher for years within the Marines, so he had it down. He knew drill and simply to be very robust and commanding. And he had such a presence to him. … He had a whole lot of wit and a really, very darkish humorousness. … It simply makes for the right drill teacher on display.”

Betty Ermey said her father, R. Lee Ermey, wanted to be a Marine for the rest of his life. — Courtesy of Betty Ermey

Betty Ermey mentioned her father, R. Lee Ermey, needed to be a Marine for the remainder of his life. — Courtesy of Betty Ermey


Betty mentioned there was one other actor who had already signed the contract to play Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. However Kubrick was so impressed by Ermey’s efficiency the position was finally supplied to him as an alternative.

Whereas Ermey’s profession rapidly skyrocketed, Betty insisted the star was by no means fazed by fame. In actual fact, he was keen to present his kids an journey of their very own.

Betty Ermey insisted her father was never fazed by fame. — Courtesy of Betty Ermey

Betty Ermey insisted her father was by no means fazed by fame. — Courtesy of Betty Ermey

“In the course of the summers, we’d at all times sail,” she described. “We had this previous, rusty sailboat within the driveway. He by no means paid full worth for something. He would discover one thing parked on the aspect of the street and go, ‘I acquired this nice deal!’ He would collect us all up and we’d pack for about 5 days within the ocean. We’d drive all the way down to Marina Del Rey. He would put us all within the water and we’d sail for Catalina. … We’d go crusing and fishing for about 5 days straight within the deep blue ocean. We’d exit to the purpose the place you wouldn’t see land wherever. The waves had been fairly tough… Everyone acquired seasick, aside from him. He by no means acquired seasick.”

“We had been all simply leaning on the aspect of the boat and simply throwing up,” she chuckled. “It was fixed. He would go, ‘We will’t flip again, we’re already midway, so we’re gonna go the remainder of the best way!’ … Ultimately, we did make it to Catalina. I believe we weighed about 5 kilos much less. … And we by no means actually docked. He simply threw the anchor down. He at all times saved us out within the water. If we needed to go to the seashore, he would go, ‘Get your flippers on, bounce off the boat and swim to land.’ I’ve a daughter myself and I can’t think about throwing my child within the water on the age of 10 and telling her to swim these 200 yards within the uneven ocean, however be sure you’re residence by dinner. However that’s simply the kind of man he was. He had religion in us.”


R. Lee Ermey with his wife Nila Ermey. The couple was together from 1975 until his death in 2018.

R. Lee Ermey together with his spouse Nila Ermey. The couple was collectively from 1975 till his dying in 2018.
(Courtesy of Betty Ermey)

Betty described Ermey as a faithful household man with a lust for all times and a relentless craving to study. Earlier than he grew to become an actor, he carried out as a comic on the Sundown Strip throughout the ‘70s simply to pay the payments, she mentioned. And as soon as he grew to become a sought-after expertise, he would carry his kids on set and even to auditions.

“My dad needed to be a rustic singer,” added Betty. “He cherished singing. he was at all times singing within the automotive. It didn’t matter he didn’t know the lyrics to the track. He was going to sing it and put his personal spin on it…. He determined he was going to discover ways to play guitar at age 72. It was very painful to take heed to and repetitive. However he was like, ‘If that child in ‘Deliverance’ can do it, I can do it too!’”

And one factor Ermey was decided to do was assist the women and men who served. Betty mentioned after “Full Steel Jacket,” he did motivational talking for the troops and visited quite a few bases. He additionally labored carefully with charities, equivalent to Toys for Tots, in addition to serving to veterans in want.

A young R. Lee Ermey.

A younger R. Lee Ermey.
(Courtesy of Betty Ermey)

“Anytime the Marines wanted any assist or motivation, he was at all times there,” she mentioned. “He made precedence together with his agent… He credited the Marines for saving his life and for his success.”


Betty mentioned that in her father’s last years, he remained as busy as ever. From 2015 till 2017, he hosted “GunnyTime,” a TV sequence that centered on weapons and weapon know-how.

“He was so frightened when he acquired sick as a result of he needed to maintain the present going and he knew it helped the crew,” she mentioned. “… He pushed himself and fought towards previous age and relaxation throughout these last years… And he stayed that method till the top of his life… He was within the hospital and making the docs and nurses snigger. His hospital room was at all times the loudest on the ground.”

R. Lee Ermey learned to play guitar in his later years. — Courtesy of Betty Ermey

R. Lee Ermey realized to play guitar in his later years. — Courtesy of Betty Ermey

In January of this 12 months, the Marine Corps Instances reported Ermey was buried with navy honors at Arlington Nationwide Cemetary. Betty mentioned that in November 2018, a avenue close to the place Ermey lived for the previous 20 years in California was named after him. She additionally shared “GunnyTime continues to be on the air after his mates stepped in to maintain his legacy alive.”

“The person lived a 100 lifetimes it appears,” mentioned Betty. “And he had all of those adventures that I most likely couldn’t have in a 100 lifetimes… He had such a ardour for residing. I’ll at all times be honored to name him dad.”


R. Lee Ermey with his family. — Courtesy of Betty Ermey

R. Lee Ermey together with his household. — Courtesy of Betty Ermey

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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