Bound for boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, gazing out the window of a steam locomotive, Duke DeNuccio said he can still recall the scenery of the American South nearly 60 years later.
"Traveling on that steam engine through the South and especially into South Carolina, you'd see those giant live oaks with the Spanish moss hanging down -- it was just so picturesque," said DeNuccio, a Providence, R.I., native. "And boy, was it hot."
DeNuccio, 86, who graduated from boot camp in 1943 and served a three- year stint in the Corps before becoming a traveling salesman, returned to Parris Island on Wednesday with his friend, Jim McHenry, 69. The pair embarked Monday in McHenry's 33-foot Winnebago on a three-week road trip that will take them from their homes in Venice, Fla., to Civil War forts and battlefields all over the Southeast. The pair, who met while doing real estate work in Florida, stop each night at an RV park or campsite and sleep in the motor home before striking out for their next destination.
DeNuccio said Wednesday's visit was a chance to see how the depot has changed
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"It's definitely a lot bigger than it was when I was there," he said. "There are so many more buildings now and they're all brick. When I was at Parris Island, all we had were wooden barracks. We also didn't have that causeway across Battery Creek. I got on a ferry in Beaufort and got to Parris Island by boat."
Though a member of the Air Force from 1960 to 1964, McHenry, too, had some history with Parris Island.
"I was last at Parris Island in 1955," said McHenry, who grew up in South Florida. "The base hosted a Cub Scout jamboree and they invited troops from all over, and my troop was one of them. We saw the parade deck, the mess hall and the barracks and that's it. It's obviously changed a lot, but I was most impressed with the demeanor of the personnel there. It makes you proud to be an American."
With McHenry at the wheel of theseven-year-oldmotor home -- nicknamed "The General," after a Confederate train hijacked by Union soldiers in 1862 by the two Civil War buffs -- the pair plan to stop Thursday at Fort Sumter before heading to battlefields and forts in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.
"We talked about doing this for years, but things just came up," he said. "It just kept getting postponed for one reason or another and put on the backburner. We decided that we wanted to do it while we could still get around."
Though on the road for just two days, the pair already is running a little behind the well-planned itinerary DeNuccio made at the onset of the trip. That's just fine by McHenry.
"It's going to take us as long as it takes us to get the job done," he said. "We're going to enjoy ourselves and have a good time. At this rate, we might not make it home until the middle of June.That's OK, though. I told my wife that might be the case."