A retired U.S. Marine, an Air Force veteran and an Army soldier stand next to a grill, flipping burgers.
No, this isn’t a set up for a bad joke — it was an actual scene from Saturday’s military appreciation celebration in Beaufort.
As coals blazed and smoke wafted up from sizzling patties, the trio reflected on the importance of recognizing the sacrifice made by military service personnel and their families.
John Williams, the retired Marine, said it is an honor “to show our appreciation to those who have defended our freedom.”
“We just want to say, ‘Thank you,’ and give these families an opportunity to come out and have a good time,” he said.
Saturday’s annual celebration — held at the Atlantic Marine Corps Communities Welcome Center and hosted by the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce — brought out several hundred current and former service members and their families for food, music, bounce houses, face-painting and a slew of other activities.
Chamber president Blakely Williams said the organization and local businesses “are doing everything we can to support our military community and their mission.”
“Today is about the families,” she said. “We are here to recognize all of the sacrifices they make.”
One of those family members present at the festivities was the recently crowned Mrs. Beaufort County Kristi Becker, who grew up a self-described “Marine Corps brat” and is now the wife of a Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island drill instructor.
Events like Saturday’s celebration are critical “because we move around so much and might not have much family in the area,” she said. “So, to get so much support from the community is something that is just amazing.
“Sometimes you feel a little lost and without a home when you are (stationed a military base),” she said. “It’s hard at times, but here in Beaufort, we know we have so many people backing us up.”
Saturday’s event was attended by a host of local government leaders.
Beaufort County Councilman Brian Flewelling, himself a retired Marine who trained at Parris Island, said the community “completely embraced” him when he was a recruit.
“I felt really welcomed,” he said, “and I feel like the community is just as welcoming to military families today.”