News: Marines visit DMZ, learn grass isn’t always greener on the other side
Story by Cpl. Brian Stevens
KUSAN, South Korea - Approximately 90 Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, “the Red Devils,” got an unique experience of visiting the Korean Demilitarized Zone, the border between North and South Korea, Nov. 2, 2013.
Gunnery Sgt. Luke Desmarais, power lines division chief for VMFA-232, was the logistical coordinator for the Red Devils’ trip.
“The commanding officer wanted to get this going for the Marines to allow them to see exactly why we are here, to really solidify the fact that we are here for a purpose,” said Desmarais.
Desmarais added that the trip started with a visit to a park where there are ribbons placed on the fences of the Military Demarcation Line, the uninhabited land between the two countries.
The park also has a bell that is going to ring when the two countries reconcile their squabble and become consolidated again.
“In the afternoon portion of the trip, we went to the unification observatory and actually got to see across the Military Demarcation Line into North Korea,” said Desmarais. “We even got to check out the fake village that North Korea has created to show South Korea that there is civilization on the other side.”
Desmarais added that this was his first trip to the DMZ and he found it to be a humbling experience to see so many people showing grief at the border, something some Marines didn’t expect.
“I didn’t realize it was going to be so touristy,” said Sgt. James Boggs, power line noncommissioned officer-in-charge for VMFA-232. “I figured it would be like a fence and then like a field of mines or something. I just figured it would be a lot more rugged, but then when we got there, I saw this big building and binoculars that you can look through. It made it more interesting. It’s like seeing the fruits of your labor. We are here for a reason and it’s to protect these people. It’s kind of cool to take it all in.”
Boggs added that his Marines are still talking about their enjoyment during the expedition.
“The feedback I’ve gotten from the Marines is that everyone seemed to enjoy it overall and for me that’s the best part,” said Desmarais. The trip did, however, require plentiful hours of planning and was logistically challenging, according to Desmarais.
“Trying to lock on the buses and get the drivers who spoke little to no English to understand where we wanted to go wasn’t easy,” said Desmarais.
Desmarais added that planning a caravan like this in foreign countries is always more difficult than it would be state side.
Despite these obstacles, the trip went according to plan and many Marines were unaware of the worriment.