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From old to new: Veterans return to Beaufort for trip down memory lane

By Lance Cpl. Jenn Farr | | December 8, 2006

Lance Cpl. Jenn Farr
Jet Stream Staff

Veterans of the Marine Corps League, Department of Alabama visited the Air Station Friday afternoon as part of a three-day trip dubbed the Parris Island Invasion.

The stop was one of many made by the group of 37 veterans whose members have served in every conflict from the Battle of Iwo Jima to the Gulf War.

The tour came about when members of the League wanted to return to the Island where they earned the title Marine.

It was, for many of them, the first time visiting Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island since graduating recruit training decades ago, according to Lt. Col. J. B. Bright, the senior advisor to the Commandant at Air Command and Staff College School in Montgomery, Ala.

“We watched the graduation this morning and a lot of these Marines had tears in their eyes (after) the ceremony,” Bright said. “After the new Marines graduated, all of these veterans walked up and shook their hands in congratulations.”

After the ceremony, the group traveled to the Air Station, where they spent time with the Moonlighters of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 332, had hands on time with the flight simulator and a birds-eye view of F/A-18 Hornets.

Throughout their visit aboard Fightertown, the veterans had the opportunity to share stories with Air Station Marines, discuss changes in the Corps and talk about life in general.

“I was able to ask a lot of questions and get a lot of knowledge of how it was before my time,” said Lance Cpl. Parker Tillman, an ordnanceman with VMFA(AW)-332. “It was a good experience.”

For one of the veterans, his time in the Lowcountry was not just a trip down memory lane – it was also a homecoming.

“Everything has changed so much since I was here,” said Dirty Jones, who served as an aviation ordnanceman with Marine Attack Squadron 324 from 1971-73. “The technology is so advanced, and I can’t believe how nice the new barracks are.”

The veterans were very impressed with the advancements the Marine Corps has made since their time in the service, such as changes to pay, technological growth and upgraded facilities.

“When I enlisted in July of ‘42 the basic pay for a recruit was $21 a month,” said Bill Burleson, an Iwo Jima veteran who served from 1942-46. “At the end of boot camp they had raised it to $50 a month and we were pretty happy about that.”

Overall, these Marine veterans were able to experience a taste of what their generations helped to build.

“I wouldn’t have missed this for anything in the world,” Jones said. “You spend a little time away from your fellow Marines and nothing is the same. Even though everything has changed, the brotherhood of the Marine Corps is still solid.”