Jay Leno entertains Combat Center Marines

23 Nov 2006 | Lance Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine

Marines from the Combat Center joined with others from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, as well as service members from other branches of the armed services, at the Nov. 22 taping of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

The show, which was a specially dedicated event for the United States Military, had an all-military audience and provided military members an early Thanksgiving dinner after the show.

The show’s guests were Howie Mandel, host of NBC’s Deal or No Deal game show, and musical guest Nelly Furtado.

The military audience members participated in a modified version of the game show where members of the audience were picked by Mandel’s models to answer a series of simple questions like what the five-sided government building in Washington D.C., is called. Upon the correct response given by the audience members, everyone in the crowd won the prize hidden in the corresponding silver case. The goal was to get to the final, and most rewarding golden case.

When the final correct answer was given, a model opened the golden case to reveal the prize, which consisted of a Kevin Federline CD, a turkey dinner with cranberry sauce, a paper shredder, a dinner with Fabio, and an 80-gigabite video iPod.

Staff Sgt. Diane M. Durden went along for the ride because she felt it would be a great evening. She didn’t know details about the trip, but she thought it would be a good trip, regardless. She also thought it was also good for the Marines.

“This gets the Marines out into the community and gives the public a chance to see them in a good light,” Durden said.

This was the first Single Marine Program trip for Pvt. Chris Wagner, a Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School student from Company B.

“It seems like they have a really good selection for trips,” said Wagner. “They did a pretty good job at pulling in all the right people from left and right in order to get this together for us. Besides that, they are feeding us a Thanksgiving dinner, and that’s just awesome. Plus, I’m going to meet Jay Leno!”

Wagner wasn’t the only one excited about meeting big-name celebrities. Pfc. Tiffany L. Duffy said she has watched Leno’s show for years and is a huge fan.

“I like the fact that I can get into uniform and go meet people I really like,” said Duffy. “Times on base can be a little stressful, and fun stuff like this takes your mind off of it.”

Lance Cpl. Brandon Watkins felt the same way. “This isn’t only getting us off base, but it’s also giving us a once-in-a-lifetime chance at meeting Jay Leno,” he said. “The trips are important because it reminds the Marines that the Corps is interested in looking out for us and letting us relax. It’s really nice to come out of the field and be able to get a little vacation.”

Lance Cpl. John Fannin, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Weapons Company, said he hasn’t been able to go on any of the SMP trips because his unit is always in the field when the trips are taking place.

“I think this is really good because it lets us know that the big names haven’t forgotten about the little guys,” said Fannin. “They really pulled out all the stops for us.”

Lance Cpl. Andrew Stone agreed.

“They were great hosts,” he said. “It was great  getting the free prizes, meeting the models and shaking hands with outrageous celebrities. This kind of stuff is good for the 03’s because we don’t get to do cool stuff around Twentynine Palms. It gives us a chance to get off base without having to blow an entire pay check.”

Between the inter-service rivalry, free prizes, and celebrities, the Marines of the Combat Center found themselves having a great time.

Headquarters Marine Corps