Marine recruits come to Beaufort to be trained, tested and transformed into the world’s fiercest fighting force.
One of the world’s most-visited military facilities, Parris Island is home to the legendary Marine Corps Recruit Depot and the Parris Island Museum. Every year, nearly 20,000 United States Marine Corps recruits (all the nation’s female recruits and all male recruits east of the Mississippi River) descend on Parris Island to prepare for service. There are 35 recruit graduation ceremonies a year, always on Friday, and they are open to the public. To experience the time-honored tradition, just bring your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of auto insurance for entrance to the base. At the Parris Island Museum, the Marine Corps’ first Command Museum, more than 10,000 square feet of exhibits honor the history and tradition of the Marine Corps. The museum also highlights the region’s history, from its American Indian roots to its discovery by Europeans 450 years ago to the founding of the Depot.
The Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort boasts Marine F/A-18 squadrons that create the “sound of freedom” sometimes heard overhead. The Fightertown family consists of nearly 5,000 active duty and civilian employees (more than 8,500 active-duty armed forces members live and work in the Beaufort area). At any given time, squadrons of this established air station are deployed around the globe. The military family here has recently expanded. MCAS Beaufort is now home to two training squadrons and three operational squadrons of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, the U.S. military’s cutting edge, state-of-the-art aircraft.
Just 10 miles down the road, on the site of the former Fort Frederick (built in 1735) and Camp Saxton (a Civil War garrison), the Beaufort Naval Hospital occupies 127 acres. One of only a few military facilities recognized as a complete military compound, the hospital features 53 family housing units, two Bachelor Enlisted Quarters, a Navy Exchange retail store, a Public Works facility, recreational facilities and more. The Naval Hospital also has two Branch Medical Clinics at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
On Naval Hospital grounds lie the historic tabby (seashell and mortar) ruins of Fort Frederick, built in 1735 as protection against the Spanish, French and Indians. At Naval Heritage Park, just outside the gate, a historic marker designates the site of Camp Saxton and details Emancipation Day, which celebrated the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’s Day 1863. Little of the fort remains, but visitors can tour the grounds by appointment.
In Uptown Beaufort, pay your respects at Beaufort National Cemetery, established in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. Dedicated to those who have served this country, the cemetery contains the remains of several notable military service members. Among those are 199 Confederate soldiers, as requested by President Lincoln, making it one of a handful of national cemeteries containing Confederate soldiers