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By Jim Dresbach

Pentagram Staff Writer

Comedian and star of movies and television Rob Riggle has been in many a spotlight, but he was center stage at the start and the finish of the 37th annual Marine Corps Marathon.

Though he is proud of his acting and comedic resume, he beams when he talks about his enlistment with the United States Marine Corps.

And as a Marine reservist in New York, Riggle has been front and center at one of America’s darkest tragedies and a part of one of American television’s longest-running late night programs.

Marine Reservist Lt. Col. Riggle spoke at a press conference at Washington D.C.’s, National Press Club Oct. 26, before handling the ceremonial starter position for the 2012 Washington D.C., area marathon. At the press get- together, Riggle explained how he went from a college student in Manhattan, Kan. to an active Marine on lower Manhattan Island digging in the ruins of the World Trade Center.

“I was a theater and film major in college [at the University of Kansas], but I also got my pilot’s license when I was an undergrad,” explained Riggle. “When you graduate from college as a theater and film major, you’re going to be a waiter for the next three to five years if you’re lucky. Or you could be Top Gun, or I could roll the dice. I joined the Marines.”

He became a Marine flyer, but shifted his concentration to becoming a comedian and actor.

“I became a ground officer and fulfilled my ground contract and then moved to New York City, while I was still active duty. I did comedy at night and Marine Corps during the day. I joined the reserves when my active tour was up.

“I was in New York on 9/11. My reserve unit was the only reserve unit in Manhattan. We were activated the night of Sept. 11. I got a call from my [commanding officer] telling me to report to Ground Zero the morning of the 12th, which I did. I started removing rubble by hand in the bucket brigades from the 12th to the 18th. Then I moved to 1 Police Plaza to coordinate military/civilian efforts there.”

After his lower Manhattan mission was completed, the “21 Jump Street” and “Hangover” actor remained on active duty.

“I was picked up rather quickly by Central Command. I got my orders on Nov. 10 – the Marine Corps birthday. I reported to Central Command on Nov. 17 and by Nov. 30, I was in Afghanistan. That was a pretty quick turnaround. About a year later, I was on ‘Saturday Night Live.’”

His SNL premiere took place in October 2004. His most recognizable projects have included work on “The Daily Show,” MTV, “Fox NFL Sunday” and appearances in 20 films.

At the conclusion of the press conference, the MCM staff presented Riggle with an official Marine Corps Marathon jacket.