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Soldier Thespian
by Richard Jack Smith

“…Any time the military has an operation that can't fail, they call this guy in to train the troops, OK? You could drop this guy off at the Arctic Circle wearing a pair of bikini underwear, without his toothbrush, and tomorrow afternoon he's going to show up at your pool side with a million dollar smile and fist full of pesos. This guy's a professional, you got me?”

- Stone (R. Lee Ermey) in On Deadly Ground

Regarding personality, R. Lee Ermey brought stone-chiselled confidence to every project. So the news of his passing on April 15 2018 at age 74 saddens me deeply. In terms of popular culture, viewers and critics will recall him as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. By contrast, I tend to remember his minor character triumphs: the fast talking mercenary Stone in On Deadly Ground; and the ghostly pastiche of his Full Metal Jacket drill sergeant in Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners.

A poem to commemorate:

R. Lee Ermey made the march.

No pity for shirts packed with starch.

This sergeant could turn on a dime.

He made sure it was push up time.


Cinema gave him the opportunity to sparkle

As the old ship made ready, ahoy barnacle.

He was the heavy who could smile.

Putting up with many things, not guile.


He had a unique voice

In Toy Story, he was the choice.

His legacy was deep and broad

As one who lived by the sword.

(Remembering R. Lee Ermey (1944-2018)

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