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TECOM Training & Education Command

United States Marine Corps

Living History Detachment brings history to life

By Cpl. Jennifer Brofer | | February 6, 2006

The Living History Detachment is looking for new members to carry on the proud history of the Marine Corps.

About once a month, members of the detachment dress up in World War II-style Marine Corps uniforms, set up a display tent complete with period-correct weaponry and equipment and give classes to recruits outside the Parris Island Museum.

"The recruits get a kick out of that; you can see it in their eyes," said Peter Miller, member of the Living History Detachment, of the recruits' response to seeing Marine Corps history come alive.

The detachment, which is sponsored by the Parris Island Historical and Museum Society, was founded by two individuals from Savannah who would come to Parris Island about once a year for "Living History Day," said retired Maj. Eric Junger, Depot G-3 training officer and coordinator for the detachment.

The idea generated so much buzz from local Marines and the museum that about a year ago, they started a detachment of their own.

The fledgling detachment - comprised of less than 10 members - is looking to expand their membership to anyone who would like to participate, said Junger. Even those who were never affiliated with the military or were in another branch of service other than the Marine Corps are welcome to join.

"If they've got the enthusiasm and the willingness to do it, everyone is welcome to join," he said.

Although a fun hobby for history buffs, it takes a bit of an investment to get started - it costs about $150 for a complete set of World War II-style herringbone twill camouflage utilities, or HBTs, the most-common uniform of Marines in the Pacific, said Miller.

"We're trying to put together two or three sets of HBTs and enough equipment so if we get one young person who wants to be in [the detachment] and doesn't have the money, we can outfit them," said Miller, who added if someone "really gets into it," they may even elect to buy a period-style helmet or boots.

In order to obtain their period-style uniforms and equipment, they mostly look to the Internet and bid for the items in online auctions, said Miller, who served two years in the Navy in the 1950s.

So far, the detachment mainly has World War I and II era pieces, but in the future they would like to include Korea and Vietnam since it is easier to find those items, said Miller.

Although it may take a little digging in the pocket book, it is a rewarding experience for history lovers or those who simply love the Marine Corps.

"It's fun, and you know you're making a difference," said Junger.

"The best part [of living history] is that you're educating all the time," added Miller. 

Part of the appeal of the Living History Detachment is that it adds dimension to artifacts and offers a shared link between the past and the present, said Dr. Bryan Howard, assistant curator for the Parris Island Museum.

"It's one thing to see uniforms and gear from 1918 in an exhibit case, but it's a whole different experience to see those types of items in a living context," said Howard. "Not only does it help history feel a bit more 'real,' it allows us to experience a little of what our predecessors' material world was like."

Dressed head-to-toe in their sought-after uniforms, detachment members not only give classes to recruits once a month, but they also participate in parades and various other activities throughout the year, said Junger. Detachment members recently participated in the Commanding General's Christmas Concert and are slated to take part in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade in Hilton Head on Feb. 12.

Albeit educational, living history is just plain fun, said Junger.

"A lot of kids, when they're young, play Army or Marine, but we're all adults and we get to play Marine," he joked. "It's fun, and you know you're making a difference."

The next Living History display will be set up in front of the Parris Island Museum Feb. 11 and 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information on the Living History Detachment, call Junger at 843-263-3290.