News: Living History Detachment brings life to Marine Corps’ legacy in Reading, Pa.
Story by Cpl. David Bessey
READING, Pa. – Parris Island’s Living History Detachment blazed their way through World War II Weekend at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pa., on June 6-8, 2014.
Parris Island’s Living History Detachment seeks to preserve military history, Parris Island history and teach people about the Marine Corps.
The detachment began attending World War II Weekend in 2005. At first, they only had three members and a modest display. They returned the next year with a larger display and a weapons demonstration that won them recognition and new volunteers.
Their actions inspired people across the country to join them, and many others have formed their own Marine units to attend the event, said Eric Junger, a Living History Detachment founder and training officer on Parris Island, S.C.
Patrons who visited the Marine’s encampment took part in a battle briefing to learn about how Marines won famous battles like Iwo Jima and Tarawa. Visitors also saw how Navajo code talkers sent their messages and learned about how various small arms were used.
Re-enactors, many of whom are former Marines themselves, demonstrated weapons and tactics similar to those used on the island hopping campaigns.
The detachment attempts to add a new display or showing each year and are interested in adding female Marines if volunteers can be found.
“It is a sacred mission we are performing. We can’t forget the sacrifices they did,” said Junger, a Beaufort, S.C., native. “That generation did not just stand by while all this (World War II) was going on.”
World War II Weekend began as an air show in 1994 to restore a P-61 Black Widow, which if completed, will be the only aircraft of its kind in the air.
The museum is still raising money to restore the aircraft, and the event has expanded beyond just an air show and now has re-enactors who represent various nations of the war with their own displays and the 1940’s time period as a whole.
“I love that it’s a very tangible link to the past,” said Dan Nash, 24, a World War II re-enactor and native of Kempton, Pa. “It’s more to live history than just read it in a book.”
Each year the event has over 20,000 visitors who travel from all parts of the globe to witness and relive famous historical events.
“We can’t do what we do anywhere else,” said Junger. “Nowhere else will we get the exposure we do here.”
In the end, regardless of who served where, World War II Weekend is meant to honor all veterans for their sacrifices in the great war.
“We have to educate people,” said David Robles, a Living History Detachment member and former Marine sergeant major. “We have to remember the past and thank the people who made this country.”