Marines Gather for Annual Reunion - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/14/05

Marines Gather for Annual Reunion

From 1915 to 1965, more than 500,000 Marine recruits passed through the Yemassee train station on their way to boot camp on Parris Island. Today, some of those Marines are coming together thanks to a Yemassee business owner.

It all started 50 years ago for Bill Knepp. That's when he stepped off the train in Yemassee and headed to Parris Island. Now, nearly a half a century later, those memories come to life as he and a couple hundred other former Marines reunite and exchange stories.

"A lot of memories," Knepp said. "A lot of memories. A lot of good friends I've seen throughout the years. It's enjoyable."

"We all tell one another stories, enjoy them one more time and remember the sights and sounds, all that sort of stuff of years gone by," said Charles Setzer.

Although some memories may fade, most all these of Marines remember getting off that train in Yemassee, a step that changed their lives forever.

"I remember the old sergeant lined us up and hollered at us like an old bull," said Sam Winstad.

"We got off that train and got on a flatbed cattle truck," recalled Dan Gilmore.

Over the past 30 years, Roy Hughes has listened to all these stories as former Marines retrace their steps back to that train station in Yemassee and make their way into his store.

"I've seen thousands of these Marines come to the train station, take pictures, and wind up talking to me and ask, 'Is that where we got off the train?'" Hughes said. "And the answer is always yes."

After years of hearing these stories, Hughes took it upon himself to organize a reunion three years ago. "I just thought it was a real good thing to do, to honor these guys who came through that train station," he said.

And those who couldn't make it were also honored.

These days, the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport is the Marine recruit's first stop on his way to Parris Island.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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