The nine Marines who endured 444 days of Iranian...


QUANTICO, Va. -- The nine Marines who endured 444 days of Iranian captivity want to get back to a normal life and abandon their roles as media superstars.

At a press conference Friday, held after graduation of the newest class of Marine embassy guards, only three of the nine held for the duration of the Iranian crisis said they planned a Marine Corps career. They wereStaff Sgt. Michael Moeller and Sgts. Gregory Persinger and John McKeel.


Several are tired of being professional interview subjects.

'Privacy? What's that? I just keep answering the same questions for reporters,' said Sgt. James Lopez.

Moeller also believes his time is due for a return of privacy.

'I came from a small town, and this time (since freedom) has been very strenous,' Moeller said. I had not seen my family in four years. The pressure didn't come from my family.

'I did not need the additional press. Now that we are back here (at Quantico) we hope there is one press conference and that we can continue to march,' Moeller said.

Still, the Marine guards remain courteous, smile modestly, and sign an autograph on every piece of paper thrust at them.

'I'm going to be a public affairs officer, work in public relations,' said Hermening, sheepishly. Then, he intends to get out of the Marine Corps and study architecture.'

'Several of us will be staying in. Some will be going back to school,' Moeller said.

But two-thirds of the group plan to get out.

Moeller said the Iranian experience didn't figure in career decisions for any of the Marines.

The detachment guarding the U.S. Embassy when it was seized by militants in Tehran 15 months ago was officially disbanded Friday -- five weeks after the 52 American hostages were freed.

The Marines, decked out in dress blues, were welcomed at the Marine security guard school at Quantico, Va.

Honored were Moeller, and Sgts. William Gallegos, Kevin Hermening, Steven Kirtley, Paul Lewis, James Lopez, Rodney Sickman, John McKeel and Gregory Persinger.

Lopez, singled out by President Reagan for particular bravery in blocking Iranians as they stormed the embassy, said he plans to take another two weeks leave.

For Lopez, the heady experience of a hero's welcome hasn't been restful.

'How can I decide what I'm supposed to do? I'm still in culture shock.'

The Marines have endured captivity and a barrage of media exposure, but kept their sense of humor. They scoffed at suggestions of brainwashing attempts -- from Tehran or from Wiesbaden doctors as the Soviets charged.

'How would you brainwash a bunch of squirrels like us?' Lopez quipped.

McKeel, the Marine who made the remark about getting back to 'chasing women' found his wife didn't appreciate the sentiment, so he's 'been running from them' instead.

During a Marine guard graduation ceremony, base commander Lt. Gen. Richard Carey said embassy guards in world trouble spots now get more training in delaying action and conditions of possible captivity.

Marines who fill 'the thin blue line in the nation's 120 embassies, legations and consulates around the world will also be supported by the mood and feeling of the American people, their renewed pride and spirit,' Carey said.

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