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Meet Julie Roland: Navy pilot by day, magician by night

The 28-year old pilot and magician hosts free variety shows with Just Tryna Make Friends.

A San Diego magician's most difficult trick is balancing entertainment with military service. 

In this Zevely Zone, I profile the non-profit organization Just Tryna Make Friends. The organization has featured more than 50 free backyard variety shows promoting a message of friendship. 

Fronting the fun centerstage is the organization's founder Julie Roland. The 28-year-old is an entertainer by night and Navy pilot by day. "I'm a lieutenant. I am a Naval aviator," said Julie who has flown helicopters into hostile waters tracking enemy submarines. "Sometimes I joke that I am magician moonlighting as a helicopter pilot," laughed Julie.  

When Julie left that dangerous assignment a few years ago, her peers walked her off the tarmac with a celebratory water douse that looked more like a car wash. "It's fun and most of the time flying around San Diego can get pretty hot, so it's refreshing," said Julie.  

Credit: Just Tryna Make Friends

When Julie is not defending her country, she is hosting variety shows at her backyard theater. The JTMF shows are free to attend. "We always say magic, music and comedy and then there is everything else. We have had fire sword dancing, we have had puppets," said Julie. Anything to get supporters in the door. So much so, she's outgrowing her yard. "At a certain point, my neighbors I think get confused why there are a hundred cars on Saturday morning, so I am very excited to be partnering with Diversionary Theater which is the third oldest LGBT theater in the country," said Julie.

Credit: Just Tryna Make Friends

Since 2019, the sole purpose of the shows has been trying to accomplish the actual name of the organization which is Just Tryna Make Friends. "It feels great, I have more friends because of it, I have made a lot of friends through this show. It is so special when I see people hanging out and I say oh I didn't know you guys knew each other and they say we met at the show," said Julie.

Credit: Just Tryna Make Friends

After performances from L.A. to New York, Julie's not afraid to take the show on the road. "If there is someone with a backyard that wants the show and I can get a free weekend, I'll go do it," said Julie.  

She needs a free weekend because Commander Roland is still on active duty. "It is awesome it has been the privilege of a lifetime," said Julie. When she was young, Julie dreamed about becoming a superhero. "I'm not obviously," laughed Julie. But she may just be the next best thing an everyday person providing service with a smile. "My drive is to help people in the biggest scale I possibly can," said Julie. "I am constantly brainstorming how to do that."

Credit: Just Tryna Make Friends

The mission commander is highly trained in anti-surface, anti-submarine, and electronic warfare as well as search and rescue, logistics, and more. She currently works as an Aviation Certifying Officer at Afloat Training Group San Diego.

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Julie is a member of the Academy of Magical Arts, San Diego Rotary Club, League of Women Voters, San Diego Women's Foundation, and a Fellow in the San Diego Leadership Alliance.

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Julie could tell you about her last deployment to the South China Sea but then the magician would have to make you disappear.  

The next "Just Tryna Make Friends" show in on May 21 in Julie's backyard. You can follow the non-profit organization on Instagram by clicking here.

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