ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Veterans at the Salem VA Medical Center may soon have an authentic Marine bus to take tours in thanks to the work of a local nonprofit.
This original southern coach bus was acquired by the Commonwealth Coach and Trolley museum. The 1959 Southern Coach was put into service at Camp Lejeuene in 1959 and saw many years of service. It was later sold to Wilks Community College in western North Carolina who changed the seats for long road trips.
From there, it was purchased by a private owner in Virginia to become a motor home, but was never converted. It was donated by that owner to CC & T in the fall of 2009. With very little effort, it started up and drove about 25 miles to the CC & T bus barn. It has a Detroit 671 engine with a 5-speed manual transmission.
Bev Fitzpatrick, the president of the Commonwealth Coach and Trolley Museum, said it will cost an estimated $30,000 to restore.
A veteran himself, he said it's a worthwhile venture that will give back something special to veterans in the area, especially those who served in the Marines.
"There has not been anything like this restored that they would identify with that would pick them up and take them for a ride. That's what makes this bus unique. We have a curtain sign that has all of the bases that make up Camp Lejeune still in it," Fitzpatrck said. "So one of the things that we want to do is hopefully give them a reminder of some of the more pleasant times."
The goal is to have the bus renovated in time for the Veterans Day Parade on November 11.
To make a donation to help with the restoration, click here.