Family, Fans Attend R. Lee Ermey's Funeral at Arlington Cemetery

  • Retired Marine Staff Sgt. R. Lee Ermey is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, January 18, 2019. (Military.com/Oriana Pawlyk)
    Retired Marine Staff Sgt. R. Lee Ermey is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, January 18, 2019. (Military.com/Oriana Pawlyk)
  • Retired Marine Staff Sgt. R. Lee Ermey is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, January 18, 2019. (Military.com/Oriana Pawlyk)
    Retired Marine Staff Sgt. R. Lee Ermey is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, January 18, 2019. (Military.com/Oriana Pawlyk)
  • Retired Marine Staff Sgt. R. Lee Ermey is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, January 18, 2019. (Military.com/Oriana Pawlyk)
    Retired Marine Staff Sgt. R. Lee Ermey is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, January 18, 2019. (Military.com/Oriana Pawlyk)
  • FILE - In this May 15, 2006, file photo, retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey takes a break for a smoke outside New River Air Station's Staff NCO club in Jacksonville, N.C. (Randy Davey/The Jacksonville Daily News via AP, File)
    FILE - In this May 15, 2006, file photo, retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey takes a break for a smoke outside New River Air Station's Staff NCO club in Jacksonville, N.C. (Randy Davey/The Jacksonville Daily News via AP, File)

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. -- Retired Marine Staff Sgt. R. Lee Ermey was driven at all stages of life and always brought an element of surprise to everything he did, according to those who spoke at his funeral.

His love of marksmanship and shooting started young, with family members recalling childhood target practice. At the age of 60, he tried to learn how to ride a unicycle.

These were some of the memories shared through tears and laughter on a very chilly Friday morning at snow-covered Arlington National Cemetery as Ermey -- best known for playing Marine drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the film, "Full Metal Jacket" -- was laid to rest with military honors nine months after he died.

"He put effort into everything he did," recalled his son, Clint, after the ceremony.

"The Gunny" had a following: Nearly 100 friends, family and fans gathered to pay their respects to the Vietnam veteran. Ermey, 74, died in April due to complications from pneumonia.

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Dozens of Marines from 8th and I Barracks Washington, D.C., were present, serving as pallbearers, a firing party and an honorary platoon. A three-volley salute rang out before "Taps" was played on the edge of the cemetery, adjacent to the Old Post Chapel at Fort Myer.

In a few days, Ermey will be buried in the cemetery's new Section 82, which opened in September. Headstones have yet to be placed for the dozen or so people already laid to rest there.

During the ceremony, two chaplains read Psalms 130 and 46 and honored his courage and commitment to the Corps. Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green presented Ermey's wife of 38 years, Nila, the folded flag.

Ermey had six children and 12 grandchildren. His children, Clint and Betty, and his last surviving brothers, Jack and Terry, talked of how "Ronny" was probably off on some new adventure in heaven.

Ermey was passionate about working with vets, added former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Harold Overstreet, who spoke after Ermey's brothers. He recalled how vets would ask Ermey to re-enact famous lines from "Full Metal Jacket."

"And he loved it," Overstreet said.

Ermey served 11 years in the Marine Corps, according to his online biography. Some of those were spent as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

The Kansas native deployed to Vietnam in 1968 with Marine Wing Support Group 17, followed by two tours in Okinawa. Ermey medically retired as a staff sergeant after sustaining injuries.

He received an honorary promotion to gunnery sergeant in 2002 from then-Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones.

"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," Ermey's long-time manager, Bill Rogin, said in a statement on Facebook when Ermey died.

"He has also contributed many iconic and indelible characters on film that will live on forever," Rogin said. "He especially cared deeply for others in need."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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