NEW YORK – Like many Marines these days, Lance Cpl. Josh Gracin (search) is going home.
But instead of leaving the deserts of Iraq, Gracin is departing the wilds of Hollywood after getting voted off American Idol (search) last night.
Gracin, 22, who seemed best throughout the competition with Country/Western music, thanked viewers, the judges, his wife and young daughter.
"At this point [in the competition] this is kind of like ending a relationship," host Ryan Seacrest said.
With Gracin off the show, there are only three contestants left -- all of them fan favorites to win a contract with a record label owned by the contest's snarky judge, Simon Cowell.
But even without snaring first place, all three remaining contestants -- Ruben Studdard (search), Kimberly Locke and Clay Aiken, all 24 years old -- are so popular, they could be signed by major record labels.
Gracin spent most of the competition on leave from his unit, based at Camp Pendleton near San Diego. And the Marines kept him on 24-hour notice to be called up for active duty at anytime during the Iraq war.
Had he been called, the show's producers decided early on that he would be allowed to return next season as one of the show's top 10 finalists.
During his stay in the Hollywood mansion where American Idol finalists live during the competition, a staff sergeant from the corps' Los Angeles unit was assigned to keep Gracin in top shape in the event he was ordered to ship out.
Gracin became something of a celebrity among the Marines -- and some made up marching rhymes about him.