Parris Island graduation ceremony open to the public

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 4:07 PM EDT
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PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. (WTOC) - It was a big day on Parris Island as hundreds of recruits became Marines.

This accomplishment comes with months of dedication and courage and this graduating class was able to celebrate it with friends and family.

This was the first graduation ceremony open to the public in more than a year.

After three months of rigorous training, nearly 400 recruits earned the title of United States Marine.

“I feel like the greatest man on earth right now. I feel like I couldn’t do anything better in my life,” Pvt. Jacob Williams, from Pembroke, Ga., said.

It is a huge milestone in their lives to be able to transition from a civilian into a marine.

“It’s really exciting, you know, to be able to call myself a Marine,” Pvt. Edwin Villedaperez, from Hilton Head Island, said.

And it is a milestone this graduating class of Marines got to enjoy with some of their loved ones.

“I missed my family a lot. It’s great having them here,” Pfc. Cody Purcell, from Richmond Hill, Ga., said.

Friday’s ceremony was the first to be open to the public and each Marine could invite two people. Since the pandemic, Parris Island has held 41 closed ceremonies.

“For the opportunity for families to come and see their newly promoted marine, I think it’s a huge step for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island,” Staff Sgt. Daniel Hoppe said.

Staff Sgt. Hoppe says their training is done in phases and for most of them the hardest part is adapting to the lifestyle.

“Waking up at 3 in the morning. Having dinner, lunch, breakfast all of that at certain times,” Pfc. Purcell said.

“A lot of mind games, a lot of tricks, a lot of challenges. Nothing was given to me at all. It was all learned through hard work. I sweat a lot. I bled a lot,” Pvt. Williams said.

Each graduate says their families have been an integral part in motivating them through letters and getting to see them is a morale booster as they head into the rest of their training.

“I’m just really happy to see him here. Just working hard every day, just being a better person every day and just challenging himself to do better,” Pvt. Villedaperez’s cousin Kevin Mayorga said.

“A lot of drill instructors and senior drill instructors take deep pride within the Marine Corps and the product we’re releasing out to the armed forces,” Staff Sgt. Hoppe said.

The Marines were given several hours of liberty after the graduation ceremony to be with friends and family before they head into their next phase of training.

Parris Island recruit graduations

LIVE: Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island recruit graduations:

Posted by WTOC-TV on Friday, May 7, 2021

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