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Road that plays Marines' Hymn to be named after veteran and actor R. Lee Ermey

R. Lee Ermey gives an "Oorah" to Marines and sailors aboard the USS Iwo Jima in the Persian Gulf during a Moral, Welfare and Recreation event in 2008.

COURTESY OF THE U.S. NAVY

By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 1, 2018

If you one day hear the Marines’ Hymn while driving between Agena Road and Sierra Highway in Palmdale, Calif., do not fret; your ears are not having a “major malfunction.”

That section of road — known as Avenue N — will be named for acclaimed actor and Marine Corps veteran R. Lee Ermey during a ceremony on Nov. 10, the Marine Corps’ birthday, according to a fundraising page linked to Ermey’s family, friends and supporters.

Ermey lived just off Avenue N for the past 24 years, until his death in April at age 74, the GoFundMe page said. Efforts to rename the road after him began in May and have since been unanimously approved by the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster, Los Angeles County and the California Department of Transportation.

Plans call for street and highway signs reading “R. Lee Ermey Avenue (Avenue N),” plaques and even a “musical road” that will play the Marines’ Hymn via grooves in the road when driven upon. There are many such roads across the globe, including one in New Mexico that plays "America the Beautiful."

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While Ermey’s friends and family received overwhelming support from municipal government officials to rename the 7-mile stretch of roadway, they bear the onus to pay for the memorial, the GoFundMe page said. That is why they are attempting to raise $150,000.

“Even though all four governmental entities have unanimously approved this change, they do not have the money to fund it,” the page said. “Not only do we need Street signs, we need Highway signs, Memorial plaques, and other Roadside signs. The estimate to make this Memorial happen is $150,000. This is why Gunny’s family and community have come together to make sure this memorial happens.”

They had raised $5,365 in the campaign’s first 24 days.

The ceremony honoring the Golden Globe-nominated actor is slated to take place at the intersection of Avenue N and Sierra Highway, The Antelope Valley Press in Palmdale reported this week. It’s known to aviation enthusiasts as a prime viewing spot for aircraft taking off from Air Force Plant 42.

The event will feature the singing of the National Anthem, the posting of the colors by the Young Marines, a flyover, remarks from dignitaries as well as the unveiling of the new street sign, the report said.

The Ermey family will be escorted to the event by the Patriot Guard Riders in the Missing Man Formation, according to the GoFundMe page.

The street’s old name will remain on all signs in parenthesis next to Ermey’s, Los Angeles County records said, so that residents and businesses can keep their addresses and to prevent confusion among emergency personnel.

“I can’t wait to see when I’m driving up the 14 (Freeway) to see the next exit is R. Lee Ermey Avenue,” Ermey friend and business partner at Lancaster’s Bravery Brewing, Bart Avery, told The Antelope Valley Press this week. It was Avery’s idea to name the stretch of road for Ermey.

Ermey — a Vietnam veteran who spent 11 years in the Marines — is perhaps best known for his portrayal of the foul-mouthed drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, in Stanley Kubrick’s Academy Award-nominated “Full Metal Jacket,” but he had over 100 additional credits in film, television and video games that included everything from “Toy Story” to “The Simpsons.” He was also an author, a businessman and a humanitarian, particularly known for his work on behalf of veterans.

He credited the Marine Corps with saving his life by teaching him to become “an honorable human being,” he told Stars and Stripes during a trip to mainland Japan and Okinawa in 2006. The Kansas native enlisted in 1961 at age 17 with his mother’s signature.

Over the course of his career, Ermey spent 14 months in Vietnam, did two tours in Okinawa and was a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, the GoFundMe page said. He was promoted to staff sergeant during his final Okinawa tour before being discharged in 1972.

He was discovered by legendary director Francis Ford Coppola while studying drama at the University of Manila in the Philippines. Coppola was filming “Apocalypse Now” and he hired Ermey as both technical advisor and gave him a small role as a helicopter pilot. Eight years later, he was cast in “Full Metal Jacket.”

Ermey filled out his later years with steady work on television and the silver screen. He also toured the globe visiting with troops and veterans and championing their causes.

He would dress up as Santa Claus every year for Toys for Tots, the GoFundMe page said. He also worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“Gunny visited injured soldiers and their families home and abroad, and he did not shy away from visiting the troops in combat areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq,” the page said. “Gunny traveled throughout the US and the world, giving his time and self, to help others.”

Ermey is the only Marine to ever be brought out of retirement for promotion, the GoFundMe page said. In 2002, he was promoted to the rank he had made famous in “Full Metal Jacket,” gunnery sergeant, by then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones.

Ermey died on April 15 due to complications from pneumonia. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

For more information, visit the GoFundMe page.

burke.matt@stripes.com
 

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