Their trips to Korea were separated by 59 years -- the grandfather soldiered in the Korean War in 1953; the two young grandsons sojourned there this month on a peace trip.
Cousins Daniel Borda, 20, of Islip Terrace, and Dominick D'Alonzo, 19, of Port Washington, returned July 14 from South Korea after a weeklong trip sponsored by Peace Camp for Youth, an annual program started in 2010 for the grandchildren of Korean War veterans.
It's part of the Revisit Korea subsidized tours, created by the South Korean government in 1975. Participants get a taste of culture, Korean War history and current tensions. They do military drills for a day, visit Seoul and see the demilitarized zone in Panmunjom, where a conference room is half in South Korea and half in North Korea, guarded by soldiers from their respective sides.
"You get to go walk around in that room," Borda said. "It was pretty amazing. It was pretty enlightening."
The cousins went at the behest of their grandfather, Thomas Nuzzo, 82, of Franklin Square, who saw an article written by a Peace Camp participant last year.
Nuzzo was sent to Korea as a private first class in March 1953 when he was 22, in the 8th Army, 10th Corps, headquartered in a mountainous area that later become part of North Korea. He never fired a bullet or charged up a hill, because months after he arrived, the war ended. He stayed until November 1954, helping to train South Korea's first standing army.
Nuzzo baby-sat his grandsons when they were younger, and he'd tell them stories about his time during the Korean War and five Revisit Korea trips.
The veteran said he didn't give his grandsons much advice beyond telling them that Koreans prize politeness. So for them, he wrote the pronunciations of "thank you," "hello" and "please" on index cards. But Nuzzo didn't warn them about kimchee -- spicy, fermented vegetables that is the soul of Korean cuisine and an acquired taste to Nuzzo. "I wanted them to be surprised," their grandfather said, laughing.
"Almost every meal we had kimchee," Borda said. "I'm not a huge fan of it but it's all right."
When Nuzzo left Korea, he felt more enlightened about the world. He said he hoped his grandsons, almost the same age he was when he first saw Korea, left the region knowing there's life outside Long Island.
"They should come away with an appreciation of the American military and maybe a better understanding of what we accomplished there. People always say 'The Forgotten War. It wasn't worth it. What did we accomplish?' So they see a vibrant, beautiful Korea, in their minds, they'll say they didn't waste their time over there. It wasn't in vain."
Borda, who majors in criminal justice and will be a junior in the fall at Northeastern University in Boston, wants a career in international security. D'Alonzo majors in fire science at Nassau Community College.
"I definitely had a better sense of what he was doing over there," Borda said of his grandfather.
Nuzzo said he was "pleasantly surprised" at his grandsons' willingness to go. "I am kind of satisfied that they went. Let's say the cycle is complete."
With Mackenzie Issler and Emily C. Dooley