Local Military News

Parris Island in the 60s: A war on the inside and the outside

Chuck Woodruff
Chuck Woodruff Submitted photo

Chuck Woodruff joined the Marines in 1966 instead of waiting to be drafted.

The Vietnam War was on and Parris Island was in full swing. In all, about 250,000 Marines were trained at the depot and sent off to serve during the conflict.

Even though Woodruff and his fellow recruits knew they would likely be sent to the war zone, they still had some fun.

Woodruff still laughs when he recalls a fellow recruit who could not stand still.

"He always acted like he had worms crawling all over him," Woodruff, 68, recently said. "Well, the DI told him to get on the deck and crawl around, saying 'I'm a worm, sir. I'm a worm.' "

The recruit followed orders. The others were warned that if they laughed, they too would be down on the floor with him.

"Well, in a few minutes all 88 of us were crawling on the deck saying, 'I'm a worm sir. I'm a worm,' " Woodruff said.

Shortly after boot camp, Woodruff was shipped off to the war, where he did two tours, primarily disarming mines and booby traps in the front-line regions.

The work was tedious and dangerous. But it was the death of his closest friend and fellow combat engineer that nearly destroyed Woodruff. His friend was killed while attempting to clear a minefield, blown away.

"It struck a knife in my heart. I tried 100 times to send that guy's mother and family a letter. But I just couldn't do it," he said. "I still think about him every day."

About seven years ago, Woodruff and his wife drove to the little town in Kentucky where his friend was from. They visited his grave and met his sister.

"My wife and I drove about 11 hours and stayed about 45 minutes," he said. "I just couldn't take staying any longer."

Vietnam is never too far from the mind of Woodruff, who now lives in his hometown of Semmes, Ala., and participates weekly in a support group for Vietnam veterans.

He's written his military experiences and others down in a series of books, including "Small Town America," published in 2009.

And he'll always have mixed feelings about his wartime experiences.

"But overall, I'm glad I did it," he said. "And if they ever had to round up a group of ex-Marines to protect this country, I'd be right there in the front of them."