Guts is Enough: RIP R. Lee Ermey

Private Joker is silly and he’s ignorant, but he’s got guts and guts is enough.  Now you ladies carry on.

If anyone was the personification of the universal soldier it was R. Lee Ermey.  Gunny Ermey portrayed the quintessential sergeant who is and always has been the backbone and institutional memory of every military since man crawled out of the swamp.

I’ve seen a lot of actors try to evoke the bone rattling and mind bending edge of the senior noncommissioned officer delivering a dressing down two inches from your nose while the recipient struggles to sustain their composure.  They pretty much all fail.  Kubrick’s genius was in finding the real thing for Full Metal Jacket.  It would not have been the same movie without Gunny Ermey.

But the pivotal line that Ermey delivered in the boot camp scenes was not the better known opening stalk (with its variant on the “one celled amoeba crawling in Paleozoic ooze at the bottom of the ocean).  Rather it was what’s sometimes called the Virgin Mary scene when he promotes Joker to squad leader.  It’s often overlooked that they break you down, but they also build you up again.

And “guts is enough” is what it’s really all about.