YEMASSEE, S.C. -- “I remember the chaos, the screaming, and the doe-eyed look on every recruits face as orders were being yelled out by the young [noncommissioned officers] waiting for us at the station. This was my first true glimpse of the Corps. This is where it all began for myself and many others.”
This was what Mark Figroul, an active-duty Marine from 1964-1966, experienced when he arrived at the train station in Yemassee, S.C.
Marines, veterans and their families gathered at the Yemassee train station for the 2nd Annual Yemassee Train Depot Reunion, Oct. 16. Yemassee was the first stop for many young recruits seeking to earn the title United States Marine. From 1915 to 1965, recruits would arrive at the Yemassee train station before heading to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
Marines that fought in wars and conflicts spanning from WWI through Vietnam began their transformation at the train station.
“Before I left for the Marine Corps I always spoke to Marines and veterans in my hometown about their experiences during boot camp and their time in the service,” Figroul said, a native of Roanoke, Va. “Countless times I heard them mention the utter shock they faced when they arrived at this very train station, but what they said never made sense to me until I found my own feet on the very platform where they once stood.”
The town of Yemassee formed the Yemassee Historical Association in the hopes of restoring the historic train station and barracks where Marines worked and lived. They hope to make the barracks into a historical museum and keep the history of Yemassee alive.
“I will never forget this train station, and the night I first stepped out onto the platform,” Figroul said. “I feel like those crusty old vets that I spoke to before I joined. This train station will hold a special spot in my life. This train station has an impact that unless you experienced it yourself you could never fully understand.”