YUMA, Ariz. --
As part of a volunteer opportunity sponsored through the Single Marine (and Sailor) Program, one hundred Marines from resident squadrons aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma found themselves in the company of every superhero and super villain in the known and unknown universes. Along with renegades from parallel dimensions, pre-renaissance medieval era dragon queens, cybernetic creatures from the future and a host of cult movie icon impersonators, the eager Marines took to the event like Neo to the Matrix.
The four-day multi-genre entertainment event took place at the San Diego Convention Center in downtown San Diego, July 18 – 21. This marks the fourth consecutive year SMP has made the trip possible for selected Marines. The convention is considered the international stage for every facet of entertainment known to contemporary pop culture. With comic books, film and television being the primary focus, attendees arrive donning elaborate and detailed costumes of their favorite mutant humanoid, Japanese pocket creature, video game character or whatever their oddball imagination might fancy.
“It gives the Marines an opportunity to realize that volunteer opportunities can be fun,” said Jude Crouch, the head SMP coordinator and a native of Meadow Vista, Calif. “It gives them an opportunity to meet people they wouldn’t normally meet and, with something like Comic-Con, it’s quite a value for your volunteering time.”
Comic-con fans had the opportunity to rub elbows with characters like Marvel comic book superstar, Iron Man, anti-hero hall of fame inductee, Deadpool, Breaking Bad part-time chemist, Walter White, and more zombies than you can shake a stick at. There was no shortage of Wonder Women and Darth Vader impersonators on the floor and fans jumped at the photo opportunities.
Booths and static displays selling rare action figures, collectibles, comic books, artwork and apparel comprised the bulk of the international convention. Autograph signings with highly acclaimed literary giants Chuck Palahniuk, Neal Gaiman, Anne Rice, and Christopher Rice had lines circling corners around the stands. Panels highlighting coming attractions, like Marvel Studios’ forthcoming “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and the unexpected announcement of a future superhero co-feature starring Superman and Batman, also kept eyes and ears open for four days.
“I’ve never been to a Comic-Con event, but getting to come here and see all the costumes and whatnot, it was real interesting,” said Cpl. Patrick Bagley, a Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron air traffic controller and a native of Odessa, Texas. “There were some that I’d never seen before, like from Japanese anime – those were very cool.”
After three hours of volunteer work every morning, the Marines were granted full access passes to the event. The volunteer work provided by the Marines included supplemental support for the event staff. The Marines managed the lines of fans, cleared walkways, distributed guides and programs for the event and provided general organization for the event...
Everyone agreed the work was a small price to pay for the opportunity to meet the great artists and cult icons from around the world of comic books, fiction, the internet, and film. The grand and colorful spectacle of costumes the fanatical spirit of Comic-Con can bring out in the civilian population was also a big part of what the Marines were able to witness.
“The Joker – man, I saw a Joker that couldn’t have been more real,” said Lance Cpl. Mark Prudente, a Marine Aircraft Group 13 data technician and a native of Guam. “Yesterday, I saw some costumes from Final Fantasy. I saw a Thor, Loki, and also Daft Punk. It was great.”
“What’s happened is, every year, the Marines have performed so well, Comic-Con has kept trying to get more of us to come,” said Crouch. “The volunteer coordinator for Comic-Con was thrilled with the Marines’ performance.”
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the SMP coordinators and the participation of Marine volunteers, trips like this are made possible every year.
“I, personally, really appreciate everything that they do. Getting these trips put together for us to come out here,” said Bagley. “These are really great opportunities and it’s really awesome that they do all the hard work that they do so that we can come out here and have a good time.”
The next SMP sponsored excursion planned is the Grand Canyon Camping and Zip Line Adventure trip, from Aug. 22-25. For more information on future events, please contact a MCAS Yuma SMP coordinator at (928) 269-6556.