Years before I ever slipped on my first pair of boots, long before I’d ever dreamt of wearing dog tags, I knew what a Marine was. While most popular culture of the 80s and 90s used terms like “Sarge” and “soldier” indiscriminately across all branches and ranks, there was one man who stood out from a media saturated with posers as undeniably Marine in demeanor and delivery.
R. Lee Ermey’s breakout role in “Full Metal Jacket” didn’t only provide the world with a glimpse of what Marine Corps Recruit Training had to offer in terms of colorful vocabulary and creative insults — he defined the role of drill instructor in the cultural lexicon. From that point forward, just about every “boot camp” scene in film and television can be traced back to the man who once served as an active duty Marine himself.
Generations of aspiring bulldog “Drill Hats” have since reviewed the Gunny’s performance along their own paths to the drill field. VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray copies of his work, indicative of the very generations of Marines they accompanied, have carried R. Lee Ermey back to Parris Island and MCRD San Diego time and time again, ensuring his legacy, and the proud traditions he spent a lifetime representing, never truly leave our squad bays.