Hollywood Marine

2509 W. Marquette Road

I don’t know why, but I always wanted to join the Marines since I was little. The Marines, the few, the proud. They were real men. As boys, my friends and I always talked about how tough the Marines were with great admiration. So, I eventually enlisted at age 22, much older than the normal age of eighteen or nineteen. My father was afraid that I would get killed in action, even though there was no war at the time. My mother was so proud of me! But I’m not sure why since she was so disappointed when I left the seminary and didn’t become a priest. Perhaps she would have been happy if I had become a chaplain in the Marines.

U.S. involvement in  Viet Nam ended in 1975 and I joined the Marines in 1978. That means that I didn’t see any combat action. I trained at MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) in San Diego for boot camp. That made me a Hollywood Marine. After boot camp, I went to 29 Palms, California, where I studied electronics for a year and a half for my MOS. By the time I was trained as a telephone and switchboard technician, I had already served more than half of my three-year enlistment. However, I could not serve any time overseas because I only had a little more than a year left of my enlistment. No one was sent overseas unless they had at least two years of service left.

I was transferred to Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, California, where I became a real Hollywood Marine. I actually spent a lot of time in Hollywood watching movies! The people who watched movies in Hollywood really loved movies! I didn’t see any combat except in the movies. The closest I ever got to the battlefield was watching Apocalypse Now! at the Pacific Cinedome in Hollywood.

Another memorable movie that I watched in Hollywood, and I still vividly remember, was Monty Python’s The Life of Brian at Mann’s Chinese Theater. My brother Danny and I saw it together because he was also in the Marines and stationed at the Tustin Marine Air Base. Luckily, we went early in the afternoon to buy tickets. The next two showings were sold out and we couldn’t get tickets until an evening showing. We actually had time to see another movie and eat dinner before the Monty Python movie. Everyone loved the movie! I had never experienced such great enjoyment of a comedy movie before, or since. There was a long line to enter the theater, so I told my brother we should sit near the front. In 1979, before the era of surround sound, the only speakers were located behind the silver screen. And it’s a good thing we sat close to the front because the non-stop laughter continuously drowned out the movie soundtrack!

When I didn’t go to Hollywood to watch movies, I would go to Newport Beach, California, to watch movies. There was a movie revival house that always showed classic movies. I used like reading books and then going to see the movies based on them. I remember reading Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and then seeing the movies versions of those novels. Unfortunately, the Marines didn’t award me any medals for my deployment to the movie theaters. Nor did I get any medals for my reconnaissance missions to Disneyland! Oh, the long lines I had to endure

Long after I completed my enlistment, I received an application in the mail to join a group called the Veterans of Foreign Wars. All I had to do was check the box of the war that was ongoing while I was serving in any of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. As luck would have it, there were no wars while I was in the Marines. I’m not complaining, in fact, I feel very fortunate, but I couldn’t join the VFW! Viet Nam ended in 1975, long before I enlisted. The next eligible conflict was the Beirut barracks bombing in 1983, which occurred two years after I was discharged. Of course, I don’t deserve to belong to the VFW. I was a Hollywood Marine!


When I joined the Marines, I had to spend the night at a hotel on Michigan Avenue near Roosevelt Road the night before we went to AFEES (Armed Forces Entrance and Examination Station) on Michigan and Balbo. I was so nervous about joining the Marines that I didn’t sleep much the night before. The next day, we had to take intelligence tests and physical exams all day long. From there, we went to O’Hare Airport where we flew to San Diego for boot camp. An interesting thing happened to me while boarding the plane. As I waited in line to get on the plane, I joked about being afraid to fly with a female whom I thought was part of the flight crew. She laughed and we talked a little. When I sat down, I noticed that she had followed me to my seat and had sat down next to me. She was very pretty in a plain sort of way. She had long, light-brown hair and hazel eyes. And she had such perfect teeth. Very white, but not unnaturally white, and all perfectly aligned. We were probably about the same age. “You don’t mind if I sit with you, do you?” she asked, even though she was already sitting next to me. She caught me off guard, so I took a moment to respond. “N-Not at all.” She held my hand and said, “This is to comfort you since you’re afraid of flying.” I couldn’t believe this was happening to me! Oh, yes, and she had this–I couldn’t quite place it–sexy, non-Chicago accent. I loved listening to her speak! Well, I told her that I was on my way to Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego and she told me that her father was a colonel in the Marines. What a coincidence! And I was afraid that she would stop liking me if she discovered that I would soon be a jarhead. She actually took a liking to me and we talked and talked. We had quite a few things in common. This was a three-and-a-half hour flight and I was tired from not sleeping well the night before. Well, I nodded off while I was looking out the window. I had forgotten all about Amy. When I later woke up. not only was Amy still holding my hand, but she had also fallen asleep with her head on my shoulder. I guess she was very comfortable with me as a person and also as a pillow. I liked watching her sleep like that. She eventually even got more comfortable as she turned her body towards me and put her free arm around my waist. Later, she actually drooled on my shoulder a little. When she finally woke up, I felt as if I we had known each other for ages. She gave me her address in Quantico, Virginia, and told me to write to her. Her full name was Amy Trostle Barnes. She was so interesting and I had met her at exactly the right moment when I needed a shoulder to lean on. Well, I wrote to her while I was in boot camp and for about a year after that. But we never met in person again.

Hi! I'm Amy! Don't be afraid of the flight! I'll take care of you.