BURBANK, Calif. -- Jay Leno honored the Marines and other members of the Armed Forces during The Tonight Show's Salute to the Armed Forces Thanksgiving Special, Nov. 27.
Fifty five Marines from Camp Pendleton, Barstow, Miramar and Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego were part of the studio audience along with approximately 300 other servicemembers stationed in Southern California and as far away as Alaska.
The Marines were entertained by Leno, The Tonight Show Band, comedians Rob Schneider and Steve Marmel and a host of unique and often quirky cast of talented servicemembers.
Leno and the producers of the show sifted through dozens of submissions from each of the services to come up with the night's talent line up.
Marine Pfc. Amy Collingwood entertained the audience with her unique ability to hear a sentence and repeat it backward. During the show, Leno dictated a few sentences to Collingwood and had producers display the text on the screen for the viewers to read along. Collingwood immediately repeated Leno's words in what seemed like a foreign language or like the sound on a tape recording played backward.
"She was extremely entertaining, was relaxed and did an outstanding job representing the Marine Corps," said LCpl. David B. Bailey, combat correspondent, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, of Collingwood's performance. "She showed the American people that Marines are not just tough grunts, she showed that we also have brains in our operation as well."
According to Collingwood, her relaxed appearance belied the nervousness she was feeling in the pit of her stomach just prior to going on stage. "I wasn't just representing myself with my performance," said Collingwood. "I was representing the Marine Corps."
Collingwood recently graduated recruit training at Parris Island, SC, and is scheduled to utilize her skill with words for the benefit of the Marine Corps. She will be attending the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, Calif. next summer.
Collingwood, who is currently a recruiter's assistant in her hometown, Sarasota, FL, said her performance on the show has earned her celebrity status at home. The local media quickly picked up on her story and many in her community now recognize her as the "that person who talks backward," said Collingwood.
According to Collingwood, her celebrity has made things easier for her as a recruiter assistant. "The experience has opened a lot of doors to conversation and has has allowed me to talk about the many opportunities that exist for women in the Marines."
Tech. Sgt. Kenneth C. Trimmins, Air Force Concert Band and the Jazz Ensemble, showed off his ability to play two trumpets at the same time. The United States Army Field Band percussion section performed a comic spoof of the "Riverdance" routine using combat boots and a drumming log. Navy Personnelman 3rd Class Roger Smith performed various tricks while riding his unicycle, and members of a Coast Guard band performed N. Rimsky-Korsakov's classical piece, "The Flight of the Bumble-Bee" while running around the stage.
Leno, an honorary Navy Petty Officer, said the intent of the show was not only to thank the members of the Armed Forces, but also to entertain the troops and television viewers in a unique way.
The show was taped the day prior and broadcast on Thanksgiving to servicemembers serving in bases overseas and aboard Navy ships stationed in the Arabian Sea.