"In the last year or two, some of the things Obama has tried to do have affected us greatly in terms of the draw-downs and things like that," she said. "Not necessarily right now, but in the long term. To re-enlist is a lot harder than it would have been."
Matoush, who served in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during the first war with Iraq, says the time has come for America to rethink its spending priorities. He supports Obama, he said, because the president is pushing to spend more on domestic programs to help the poor and expand health care, even if it means more careful spending on the military side.
He concedes his opinion is controversial in town, but notes that he has some experience on the topic after serving in the first Gulf War.
"We were the very first boots on the ground, the 7th Marine Regiment," he said last week, as he volunteered at a food pantry at the Lutheran church, filling grocery bags for needy families. "I slept in holes in the desert many a night."
Matoush, a Chicago transplant who sports an Obama 2012 pin on his shirt pocket, retired from the Marine base in 1994 and settled in Twentynine Palms, partly because of the services available inside the base gates.
"Let's face it, I use the base facilities," he said. "I've got medical care through the military. It's a good deal."
But he added that he thinks the nation spends too heavily on the military and that the war in Iraq following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was misguided. In 2008, he organized anti-war protests in town that generated hate mail from around the nation.
"I got ostracized in this community," Matoush said, adding that many members of his congregation did not believe that he could support the troops and oppose the war at the same time.
The closely fought election will not turn on how residents vote in Twentynine Palms, where last time around Sen. John McCain won 2,494 votes to Obama's 1,731. But the votes cast inside the base, home to 29,500 military and civilian workers, may have a ripple effect in the home counties of Marines and family members sending in their absentee ballots.
That the issue of national defense is a chief factor in their views comes as no surprise in a community that owes its identity to the Marine Corps' largest base. The military is the largest employer in town, followed by the school district.
Red Marine Corps flags fly from flagpoles throughout town. Murals touting Marine victories from World War I to Desert Storm adorn the sides of buildings. Active duty military can get discounts at local restaurants, and virtually every passing vehicle has a distinctive, round decal honoring the Marine Corps.
"They're our neighbors here, I feel very strongly about that," said Mayor John Cole, who counts himself among the undecided voters that both Romney and Obama are courting in the final weeks of the campaign.
"I have a son and a grandson in the military, and of course when people start talking about drawing down the military, they're going to have strong feelings about that. From a community perspective and as a councilman, I have some concerns if they draw down, how that might impact us out here."
In recent years, that has not been a problem at the base, which encompasses 935 square miles of desert. About $550 million in construction has taken place in the last three years. Marines and on-base workers are the beneficiaries of a new exchange that offers tax-free groceries and the only Starbucks within 25 miles.