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The Beaufort area is home to three major military installations, a military housing facility, and a National Cemetery, all which contribute significantly to Beaufort's role as a "military town". Persons with an interest and appreciation for military heritage and life will definitely enjoy Beaufort's installations. Listed below is further information on each facility:
The Marine Corps Recruit Depot - Parris Island (MCRD Parris Island, also known as "Parris Island or just "The Island") is the primary training center for male U.S. Marine Corps recruits and the nationwide training center for female Marine recruits.
What many people don't know is that it is open to the public. In order to enter the base, one must show a drivers license, vehicle registration and insurance papers at the entry gate. Although Parris Island is open typically seven days a week, Fridays can usually be the busiest time to visit due to recruit graduation ceremonies. Thursdays which are "Family Day" can also be busy.
Visitors can begin their visit at the Douglas Visitors Center for further information on the island's amenities. Many visitors typically will visit the Parris Island Museum, which is open 10:00 AM - 4:30 PM seven days a week. The museum contains numerous displays and history of the U.S. Marine Corps, and is interesting for all ages. Admission is free. There's a gift shop at the Museum offering Marine-related items and logo items.
Visitors can also take a driving tour of the island and stop at several sites along the way, though some areas of the island are restricted. The historic French & Spanish colonial sites of Santa Elena and Charlesfort are also located on Parris Island. At the tip of the island is a monument to the Charlesfort colony site, which is certainly worthwhile. Be sure to also check out The Legends at Parris Island golf course with competitive rates and is open to the public throughout the year.
Attending a Graduation Ceremony is perhaps the most quintessential and best experience to the facility. Graduation occurs on Fridays
throughout the year and are open to the public. Please check the Parris Island visitors website for graduation information and dates.
The Marine Corps Air Station - Beaufort (MCAS Beaufort, also known as the "Air Station" locally or "Fightertown East" by some) is one of seven MCAS facilities in the nation and is home to six F/A 18 Hornet squadrons and one Navy F/A 18 squadron. The base employees over 4,000 personnel and is one of the area's largest employers.
Visitor attractions are limited and typically restricted to guided, pre-approved tours or guests of personnel who work on base. The biggest attraction of the Air Station occurs every other year during the MCAS Beaufort Air Show, typcially held during years ending in odd-numbers. The Blue Angels have typically been included in these events, as well as a variety of stunt and performance aircraft.
The United States Naval Hospital - Beaufort (USNH Beaufort, also known as the "Naval Hospital") is a facility that caters primarily to service personnel and their families.
The Laurel Bay housing community is a large, DoD operated facility which houses military personnel and their families. Access to the installation is limited to military personnel, their families, and respective guests.
The Beaufort National Cemetery was established by President Lincoln in 1863 as burial grounds for Union victims of the Civil War. Beaufort was chosen as a location for the cemetery due in part to the early Union occupation of the community, which occurred less than a year after the war began in 1861. Over 9,000 Union soldiers and 117 Confederate soldiers were laid to rest here. An additional monument for 174 unknown soldiers of Union origin was also erected. Additional service members who have fought in major American battles from San Juan Hill to the Second Gulf War are also buried here.
Among interments of note include 19 members of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first all-black regiment in the Union Army; Colonel Donald Conway (USMC), also known as the "Great Santini" and popularized by in the eponymous novel by his son Pat Conroy; and Gerd Reussel, a German POW soldier from World War II.
The cemetery grounds are open to the
public daily, from 8:00 am to dusk.
Special services during Memorial Day and Veterans Day are unique opportunities to pay your respects to those who have served.