Local Military News

Port Royal parade a tribute to Parris Island's centennial

Video: Parris Island Centennial Parade

The town of Port Royal celebrates 100 years of making Marines at Parris Island with the Parris Island Centennial Parade on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.
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The town of Port Royal celebrates 100 years of making Marines at Parris Island with the Parris Island Centennial Parade on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.

Tricia Fidrych stood on the corner of 12th Street and Paris Avenue in Port Royal in the heat of the day Saturday holding a large American flag.

She was not alone.

Hundreds -- many waving flags or carrying homemade posters that read 'We Thank You' -- lined both sides of the wide avenue as a parade marking Parris Island's centennial headed south.

"You can clap or whatever," said Fidrych, "but I just wanted to show them our support with the flag."

A Port Royal resident with family ties to the military, Fidrych said it was important to come out and show support -- not only for the Marines but for all branches of the armed forces.

"They're all amazing," she said, adding that she grabbed the flag off her own front porch just a block and a half away as she left for the parade that morning.

"There is nothing that says 'honor' like the U.S. flag," she added.

As marching bands and ROTC units moved past and jeeps and other military vehicles filed by, some spectators began making their way down to the avenue's south side.

A screening of the documentary "Parris Island: 100 Years of Making Marines" was to follow with additional showings that afternoon.

Both the parade and the documentary, sponsored by the Parris Island Historical and Museum Society, are among the numerous celebrations and events that have occurred throughout the area commemorating the depot's 100th year of training marines.

And celebrations like Port Royal's haven't gone unnoticed.

"Port Royal is phenomenal," said Parris Island's Director of Operations Col. Neal Pugliese, who was on hand for the screening.

Pugliese, who was featured in the documentary, said the town and Parris Island were "intertwined and inexorably linked."

"We couldn't do what we do without them," he said. "It's really the model for the rest of the nation for how our community partners and the Marine Corps should operate."

Port Royal resident Rick O'Hara was also planning to attend the documentary screening and had driven his golf cart, flanked with American and Marine Corps flags, to the parade about an hour before it started.

A Vietnam veteran and Marine himself, O'Hara recounted his time spent at Parris Island in the early '70s, before he became a staff sergeant in the Corps.

"They didn't have 'The Crucible' back then," he said, as he waited for the film to start. "We had Elliott's Beach."

Similar to The Crucible, training at Elliott's Beach involved multiple drills and forced marches spread out over several days in which recruits camped out, or "bivouacked."

O'Hara, who never moved back to his native upstate New York after his time spent on the island, settled in Port Royal instead.

For nearly 45 years, he's watched as young recruits, like him and those before him, enter the depot as fledgling troops and come out as Marines.

"Anytime I can celebrate the armed forces I do," he said.

"Because I was a Marine. I'm still a Marine," he added quickly. "Once a Marine, always a Marine."

Follow reporter Mindy Lucas at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.

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