As actor and Marine veteran R. Lee Ermey took the stage at a benefit for the Fallen Officer’s Fund on Friday night, the audience sat up straighter.
Ermey quickly launched into his opening lines from his best known character, Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the 1987 war film “Full Metal Jacket.” “From now on you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and the last word out of your filthy sewers will be ‘Sir.’ Do you maggots understand that?”
“Sir. Yes sir!” the audience of about 200 responded.
Ermey delivered the “edited version” of the rest of monologue — littered with profanity in the movie.
“My grandmother went and saw [“Full Metal Jacket”] ... she came back and said ‘Ronny, where did you learn to talk like that?”’ he said.
Ermey — known as “The Gunny” — has appeared in more than 60 feature films and has gained more recent fame for voicing the toy soldier “Sarge” in the “Toy Story” movies and his History Channel weaponry shows, “Mail Call” and “Lock N’ Load with R. Lee Ermey.”
The benefit, sponsored by the Shooter’s Depot, was organized to raise funds for the Fallen Officer’s Fund, specifically designated to the Chapin Family Memorial Educational Fund.
Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin was killed April 2 when responding to a robbery at the U.S. Money Shops on Brainerd Road.
“Mr. Ermey was coming anyway for our Glock Days event, and we just decided we should use our powers for good and maybe make his visit something that would benefit the community and the Chapin family,” said Aimee Gregory, who organized the event.
Besides his opening, Ermey’s talk lacked any haranguing, and was full of praise for the military and law enforcement. He said he had been speaking at many Marine funerals recently.
“I attend more of these functions than I care to think about,” he said. “It kills me, breaks my heart. It’s one of the most painful things I do.”
At one point Ermey threw an autographed football to one of Chapin’s sons, and addressed the family:
“I know you will all keep moving forward and trying to make the best of it. All the best to you. God bless.”