In 1997, Justin McDuffie was packed into the family vehicle eagerly awaiting a glimpse of his new home.
As he approached the Maryland Boulevard or MD Route 715, gate, the tanks that lined the roadway were a sight that McDuffie will never forget.
For the then 5-year-old, “it was the coolest thing ever,” he said.
Now a multimedia journalist for WMAZ-TV in Macon, Georgia, McDuffie first came to APG after his family relocated from Oklahoma for his father’s – then a lieutenant colonel – next assignment.
McDuffie recently recalled his childhood memories in the families’ “beautiful, old, white house,” with views of the Chesapeake Bay, on Plumb Point Loop, and the wonderful times he had on the installation.
“I have so many fond memories,” McDuffie said.
Those fond memories include waking up every morning to the sight of deer grazing on the open field, and treating the heavy booms and shaking floorboards caused by firings on the nearby ranges, as normal occurrences.
“Growing up, I thought it was normal that my house shook every day,” he said. “You just grow accustomed to it. All hours of the day your house rattles and you just think that it’s normal.”
One of his favorite pastimes while living on APG was running down to the water’s edge with his friends during the summer months where he would soar out into the bay from a rope swing.
“Every summer, we’d all get our swim trunks… [and] we would just play on that rope swing all the time… and just have fun all summer long… We just loved living there,” McDuffie recalled.
“Growing up as a kid, there was no better place for me.”
APG was also where he discovered two of his passions – singing and journalism.
McDuffie was featured in a May 2001 edition of the APG News along with his brother, Matthew McDuffie. The article detailed the boys’ outstanding accomplishments, including Justin McDuffie’s successful audition with the Maryland State Boychoir.
It was in teacher, Cynthia Bartlebaugh’s music class at Roye Williams Elementary School that McDuffie learned about the choir.
“She’s [Bartlebaugh] awesome. She’s the reason I got the audition. I traveled all over the country and sang throughout the state of Maryland,” McDuffie said.
McDuffie also continued using his voice after the family transferred to Seoul, Korea, where he was the only American in a Korean children’s choir.
He said his interest in journalism was always there, adding that he always enjoyed reading newspapers and watching the news. His interest blossomed, however, during the 2000 presidential election. McDuffie remembers watching the results roll in in that big white house on Plum Point Loop.
“I begged my mom to stay up and watch the returns,” he said.
That excitement for the news carried over into adulthood, as McDuffie decided to pursue a degree in journalism. He graduated from The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in 2015.
“Now that I’m older the fact that I get to go out and tell people’s stories is the most amazing thing,” he said. “No amount of education will prepare you to talk to a grieving widow… but then you do a story the next day on some kid who has overcome some rare form of cancer and those are the things that get you through the days.”
While his life as a military child was full of challenges, McDuffie said it also prepared him for the future.
“I think growing up as a military child kind of prepared me to roll with the punches and be prepared for whatever might lie ahead. I don’t know when my phone is going to ring and I’m going to have to go out on a breaking news story. But that’s kind of how I’ve always lived my life … you never know what the day may bring.”
While the military has taken the family around the world, McDuffie said that their experience at APG was one of the best.
“Till this day, my parents still talk about everything we did at APG and living at that house,” he said. “The memories that we made in that house are priceless.”