Lights, camera - Atten-shun!

My dad served in the United States Marine Corps for 25 years. In that time, he had encounters that ranged from the very serious to the wonderfully humorous. This is one of the humorous ones.

The Marine Corps sent a large contingent to the ostensible paradise of a Caribbean island for a month of special training. But only one movie was sent with the troops - one movie to play for the marines every night they were there. Not only that, but this was the 1960s, and the movie was a 1950s B-movie about World War II Navy aviators.

By the fifth night, the groans that greeted the commanding officer when he announced the movie could probably have been heard on a neighboring island. But a marine prides himself on being able to overcome any obstacle, my father related. With the wave of his hand, the commanding officer silenced the crowd.

"All right, I'm as tired of this movie as you are," he told them. "Projectionist, turn off the sound track. We're going to play all the parts."

Pointing at various men in the audience, he ordered, "You, with the blond hair, you play the hero. When he comes on the screen, you say his lines."

"But, sir, I don't know all his lines!" the man protested.

"That's OK, son, do the best you can. We're going to have fun with it," the CO said. "You, sergeant, you play the hero's best friend. You, corporal, you play the girlfriend who is the nurse."

"But, sir," he wailed, "I can't play a girl! They'll laugh at me!"

"It's OK. They'll have to come through me first!" he assured the corporal.

The movie rolled. Some lines were correctly delivered, some were botched, and a few were mangled beyond recognition. Fellow marines helpfully and sometimes forcefully corrected their thespian brethren.

The next night, roles were redistributed - some to those who had been helpful editors the night before.

Weeks passed. Some marines became experts at playing particular parts and amending them to make what was a serious movie quite funny. Some men worked hard to keep their roles and were thrilled to do well at something unrelated to the military.

By month's end, the marines were actually sad to see that movie packed up and shipped to the next unit.

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