Return To Parris Island
A Warm Hello and Greetings from Hobe Sound Florida!
It?s always good to be home after a great road trip!
It was O? Dark Thirty when I wheeled out my Harley Fat Boy and headed to the Cumberland Farms Store where I was to meet Gunner. Our timing was good and we both headed North on I-95 to the rest area in Port St. Lucie where we hooked up with the rest of our Treasure Coast Chapter of Leatherneck?s M/C. Some rode from as far South as Miami, Ft Lauderdale, Boca Raton & West Palm Beach. There was Blue our President, Popeye our Sgt of Arms, Budda, Skip, Houdini, Gunnz, Gunner, some others and myself. Now we were a number of cycles in a safe staggered formation as we hammered our way up the super slab. We made several stops to meet up with other Leatherneck?s still further North. From my position near the back of the formation I could see everyone and counted tail lights after each stop to insure we left no man behind. I could not help but notice Blue up front there in the lead with his white pony tail waving in 80 MPH breeze. A good Marine who did far more than his job in Viet Nam, he earned a Bronze Star. Without exception, we all elected him as our President last year. As we rode I felt sure that each of us from up front to the back door had the same feeling – that this was really going to be a good ride. A ride that we will always remember?
Shortly after daybreak we reached the Georgia State line and we were now a large Company of Marines heading to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island South Carolina. Each of us had been through ?boot camp? there at one time in our lives. This was to be a road trip back to that place where we had become Marines and to also attend a regional meeting of Leatherneck?s M/C in the nearby town of Beaufort. I had rain gear stowed in my rut bag along with extra skivvies, T-shirts and cushion soled socks. Luckily, the weather was warm and clear and I would not need the rain gear at all during the trip. The Hooker exhaust on my Fat Boy sounded healthy, loud and clear. As I moved through the gears it played a staccato of pure , sweet – good ole? Harley tunes, with a deep rumble which around town is always very pleasing to hear. Being very used to my exhaust notes I thought nothing of it while on the road. Now when stopped, my ears were ringing a bit. The thought of changing the exhaust crossed my mind. Then, on second thought it is seldom that I make road trips this long. I?ll let it be. Others spend really big bucks to try to duplicate that sweet sound and that?s really music to my ears.
We arrived at the guard gate at Parris Island and were each completely checked out by the guards to insure security. We showed Driver?s Licenses, I.D., Insurance, tags, registrations and proper attire including bright colored long sleeve shirts, gloves, boots etc. Once satisfied, the guards issued each of us a guest pass that would permit us to come and go.
We stayed on Parris Island in quarters frequently used by visitors. Family members often like to visit when a son or daughter finally graduates and receives an EGA (Eagle, Globe & Anchor) from their Drill Instructor? The rates are really very low and truly a real bargain. They probably do not get too many veterans. Maybe it?s because who the hell would really want to go there anyway after once going thru boot camp there. Once would more than likely be enough for most sane folks. But here we are a bunch of Marine Veterans recapturing a bit of our pasts?Oorah!
Gunner had joined, been a private and over twenty years in the Corps was a Sergeant, rising to Warrant Officer and finally retired as a Captain. We shared a room at Traditions, the BOQ (bachelor officers quarters) on the water, while the rest of the ?rif raf? had billets in the enlisted men?s area on mainside. There was little actual difference in rooms but it was fun kidding them that the difference was like the Waldorf versus the Super 8 Motel. We all rode, ate and spent time comparing notes and had plenty of real laughs and shared many sea stories and jokes over our long weekend trip.
To a visitor Parris Island is very unique and very beautiful. It is spotless, clean and well maintained. Surrounded by alligator and shark infested waters, strong tides, sinkholes and quicksand it is quite inescapable. It is the training ground for Marine Corps Recruits East of the Mississippi. It has a long and colorful history and has had Marine Corps activity since 1891. Located off the South Carolina Coast, Parris Island is midway between Charleston ,S.C. and Savannah Georgia, opposite Port Royal. This flat sandy piece of land covers an area approximately 8,400 acres and is covered with a verdure of tropical palms, cactus, pine forests with eerie looking Spanish Moss hanging everywhere. Billions of sand fleas love it there?and those of us that underwent recruit training there can attest to the appetite of those pesky little critters. Those sand fleas had a daily banquet all over us as we stood for hours at rigid attention or marching and doing squads drill on the grinder. Some say the term Leatherneck came from skin made deep tan and tough from countless hours in the sun combined with the many bites from the sand fleas. Historians wilI relate the term to a leather collar that was a part of the uniform worn by early Marines. Their job was to maintain order aboard ship, put down any mutiny attempts by sailors. These ?Leatherneck? Marines who were all sharpshooters were often positioned high in the rigging to fire upon the Officers and crew of other ships during broadside battle prior to boarding.
I made a point of riding out to the rifle range and around each of the three training battalion areas. While some buildings have changed the traditional discipline and training of young men and woman to become the ?first to fight? offensive tip of our nations spear continues?Some training methods and equipment have also been greatly improved and I?m here to tell you that they are still turning out top quality Marines.
I went through Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in 1956. I was in Platoon 63, C Company, third training battalion. We used old World War 11 aluminum Quonset huts and they served as a place to keep your foot locker and not too often – even rest your head in an assigned double decker metal bunk bed. My drill instructors were Tech Sergeant Muldrew, Sgt. Howell and Cpl. Palmer. They were squared away and taught by the book. Sgt. Muldrew, a WW11 veteran was about the meanest SOB I ever met in my life before or since.?but I am thankful in that he made Marines out of us. His training and discipline later saved lives. God bless you Gunny- If you are still around! The training was intensive and at times seemed unending. No question – it was tough. Many recruits dropped out and were sent home. Looking back over all my life?s experiences I believe the Marine Corps was about the best thing I have ever done. I would not want to do it again but I would not trade that experience for anything. After Parris Island all the places that I served, all the companies, jobs I have ever had – everything by comparison has been very easy.
Now, riding around the island I see that there have been some changes. The Quonset huts are all gone along with the old asbestos insulation – replaced by new modern brick buildings. What used to be a little 1200 square foot Post Exchange is now a big box store called Corps Values along the lines of a Wal-Mart selling everything from dress blues, t-shirts , food to home furnishings. From somewhere in the distance I could often hear a platoon of recruit voices all shouting in unison?Sir-Yes Sir. Aye Aye Sir Gangway!
With special passes obtained after close scrutiny by the main gate we rode our cycles on and off base and toured around for several days. South Carolina has plenty of interesting two lane back roads for cruising. I really do prefer them to the high speed super slabs. At 75 to 80 MPH you do not have much to look at but those ahead and the focus is riding with care and all at the same speed?
The US Military Vets M/C hosted and invited us to a birthday party they had way out in the boonies for ?Spotter?and it was really great. Spaghetti, rich, thick meat sauce, garlic bread, cake, ice cream and plenty of cold beer?Yeah Boy! They were very hospitable and really some of the nicest folks I have ever met. As I promised, I had my camera along and captured some good photos that I share here with you. My thanks on behalf of all us Leatherneck?s to the USMV M/C for having us as their guests?
Treasure Coast Leatherneck’s M/C