WWII veteran and local hero visits Parris Island 70 years after graduating
PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. – Seventy years after graduating recruit training, an 87-year-old veteran Marine visited Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on April 5.
Ernest Snowden first set foot on Parris Island on April 4, 1942, and seven decades later, he returned to visit the depot one last time.
It’s always great to visit Parris Island, Snowden said.
“I don’t know how many people ever get the chance to come back, especially after 70 years,” he said.
Snowden, who now lives in Clay City, enlisted in the Marine Corps on Feb. 7, 1942, out of Lexington, and served in the Marine Corps as a rifleman in L Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division until his enlistment ended, Feb. 11, 1946.
On Aug. 7, 1942, he arrived on Guadalcanal.
“I served in every battle that 1st Marine Division fought in the Pacific except Okinawa,” Snowden said.
Snowden served a total of two and a half years in the South Pacific and jokingly said that he “must have hit every swamp in the South Pacific during that time.”
“He talks constantly about his time in the Marine Corps,” said Bonita Tito, Snowden’s daughter. “It had such a profound impact on his life, and I believe that he really did enjoy his time in the Marines.”
“And he loves going to Parris Island,” she added.
Snowden said that although things have changed since his time on the depot, he still feels nostalgic.
“There’s a saying that goes ‘you can’t go back home,’” he said. “I think that’s true here especially. What was here then, isn’t now.”
“All we had were quanset huts,” he said laughing.
Aside from the geography of Parris Island, Snowden said one of the biggest differences he saw is the training recruits receive now.
“The training back then was nowhere near as good as it is now,” Snowden said.
“I don’t know how we would have made it without our experienced sergeants,” he said.
It’s great that Marines now have training that’s this in-depth, he said.
The last thing Snowden did on the island was watch the graduation ceremony of Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion.
“My graduation was just my drill instructor putting me on a bus and telling me to go to New River,” Snowden said. “I think it’s really nice that the Marines and their families get a ceremony at the end of their training.”
This was the seventh year in a row that Snowden has visited Parris Island and also the last.
“I’m going to miss coming here,” he said.