"Terminal Lance" creator Maximilian Uriarte poses with fans at Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 4, 2018.

"Terminal Lance" creator Maximilian Uriarte poses with fans at Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 4, 2018. (Drake Nickels/U.S. Marine Corps)

With a collective sense of humor unlike any other institution, the U.S. military brings its “A” game on April 1.

Reports of another balloon overflight, recognition for a popular Marine Corps satirist and a new medal for those who “almost joined” the military posed the internet question, “Is this for real?”

In a report headlined “See Something, Say Something,” Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Wash., said Saturday it received calls about a large balloon-like aircraft floating over neighboring counties at a relatively low 10,000 feet.

The report was not farfetched; the U.S. military shot down four flying objects over U.S. and Canadian airspace in February, one of them a Chinese spy balloon.

The base alerted local authorities and dispatched military helicopters to investigate the unidentified flying object. Readers hooked by the otherwise dry but alarming account of another airspace intrusion found the payoff in the last paragraphs.

Challenged to identify themselves by military pilots, the balloon occupants responded: “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home,” on repeat.

“The pilots determined it was Dorothy and Toto on their way back home to Kansas from the Emerald City,” the report said. “They were allowed to continue on their journey with no further questions or concerns.”

“Terminal Lance,” a popular comic strip that satirizes life as a non-rate in the U.S. Marine Corps, announced on its website that its creator, Maximilian Uriarte, was designated Lance Corporal of the Marine Corps by Commandant Gen. David Berger at a Saturday ceremony.

Nearly 400 noncommissioned officers stood in formation at Uriarte’s request for the seven-hour ceremony, according to the Terminal Lance report.

“I think we can all agree that this is a long overdue honor for such a remarkable, good looking, and incredibly talented young man,” the report quoted Berger as saying. “This is the least we could do to honor the much needed levity that Mr. Uriarte has brought to the Corps for over a decade.”

The designation comes with its own rank insignia and special identification card, which will allow Uriarte full Marine Corps Exchange and dining facility privileges at Marine installations worldwide, according to the report. Uriarte also received a ceremonial white can of Monster Energy and a stipend of one log of Grizzly Wintergreen chewing tobacco per month.

“The 400 Staff NCO’s from the ceremony are said to be in stable condition and are staying hydrated, per their Corpsman,” the website reported.

Leadership University, a U.S. Department of Defense collaboration of experts and leaders that provides career and life-changing tools to the U.S. military and their families, announced a new medal Saturday for non-military members.

“Senior Defense Department officials are bracing for criticism after they announced plans to create a new medal — one that doesn’t require service in any of the nation’s branches of the armed forces,” said a post on the university’s official Facebook page. “The medal will formally recognize the desire many young Americans have to serve, even if they never actually signed up.”

The post included a photo of the medal, which looks exactly like the Pentagon's Distinguished Warfare Medal, and ended with the statement: “And have a great April Fools’ Day.”

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Kelly Agee is a reporter and photographer at Yokota Air Base, Japan, who has served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years. She is a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program alumna and is working toward her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland Global Campus. Her previous Navy assignments have taken her to Greece, Okinawa, and aboard the USS Nimitz.

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