Er-doped GaN (Er:GaN) is a promising candidate as a gain medium for solid-state high energy lasers (HELs) at the technologically important and eye-safe 1.54 μm wavelength window, as GaN has superior thermal properties over traditional laser gain materials such as Nd:YAG. However, the attainment of wafer-scale Er:GaN bulk or quasi-bulk crystals is a prerequisite to realize the full potential of Er:GaN as a gain medium for HELs. We report the realization of freestanding Er:GaN wafers of 2-in. in diameter with a thickness on the millimeter scale. These freestanding wafers were obtained via growth by hydride vapor phase epitaxy in conjunction with a laser-lift-off process. An Er doping level of 1.4 × 1020 atoms/cm3 has been confirmed by secondary ion mass spectrometry measurements. The freestanding Er:GaN wafers exhibit strong photoluminescent emission at 1.54 μm with its emission intensity increasing dramatically with wafer thickness under 980 nm resonant excitation. A low thermal quenching of 10% was measured for the 1.54 μm emission intensity between 10 K and 300 K. This work represents a significant step in providing a practical approach for producing Er:GaN materials with sufficient thicknesses and dimensions to enable the design of gain media in various geometries, allowing for the production of HELs with improved lasing efficiency, atmosphere transmission, and eye-safety.