In a letter to the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Military Enhancement Committee, five former high-ranking United States Marine Corps officials -- including a former Commanding General of Parris Island -- called on congressional candidate Nancy Mace to tone down her rhetoric about Parris Island. They wrote that Mace has "made outlandish and factually inaccurate claims bout the future of Parris Island."
Mace is running against incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham for South Carolina's 1st Congressional District seat. The letter asks Mace to stop asserting that Marine Corps leadership was considering closing the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island. Mace has also attempted to tie Rep. Cunningham to the closure talks.
Earlier this month, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling made a similar request of Mace, asking her to take down her TV ad that accuses Rep. Cunningham of “putting Parris Island on the chopping block.”
A copy of the letter is below:
"Dear Beaufort Military Enhancement Committee Members:
We are all former United States Marine Corps (USMC) officers who have a vested interest in the health and wellbeing of Parris Island -- either having worked there or held high-level positions in the USMC. Many of us are lucky enough to still call Beaufort County home. As such, we have closely followed reports of Marine Corps leadership considering closing Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island and San Diego to create a new, centralized depot in order to achieve full gender integrated training.
We were heartened, however, by the bipartisan response to this news, as the South Carolina Congressional Delegation stood together to make it clear that this would not happen on their watch. It is clear that a united front is necessary to combat this challenge. A candidate running for Congress to represent Beaufort County and the surrounding area, however, has recently made outlandish and factually inaccurate claims about the future of Parris Island. We believe it is in the best interests of Parris Island for the rhetoric to be toned down, and for a truthful conversation be held with the public.
Let’s be clear what is at stake here. Parris Island is the crown jewel of our many military installations, responsible for training the next generation of Marines who proudly serve their country on a daily basis. Parris Island supports more than 6,000 jobs locally and has an economic impact of $739.8 million on the region. The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act required the Marine Corps to gender-integrate recruit training at the platoon level within a five-year timeline for Parris Island, a requirement for which Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger has said Parris Island does not currently have the infrastructure to meet.
To be clear, women are not a threat to the USMC, and Parris Island can easily integrate female recruits into its training program. In fact, women have been training on Parris Island for nearly 80 years. Parris Island simply needs funding for a new barracks, which our Congressman and Congressional delegation are committed to providing. Indeed, despite the overblown rhetoric about gender integration, the truth is that Parris Island does face a serious threat to its survival: sea-level rise. Rising sea levels and harsher storm systems contribute to an almost-daily loss of real estate on Parris Island and require more frequent recruit evacuation that is both expensive and time-consuming. Congress can and should provide the funding necessary to renovate Parris Island to accommodate female recruits. But we cannot ignore the long-term threat of sea-level rise to Parris Island’s survival.. This is something our Congressman, Joe Cunningham, has been working on since he's been in office. And we agree with him.
In the interest of Parris Island's future, we, the undersigned, stand behind Rep. Cunningham and the rest of the South Carolina Congressional delegation, and urge all interested Beaufort County residents to do the same. Parris Island will need significant resources to adapt to the effects of sea-level rise, which we see every day here in the Lowcountry. We need to have an honest conversation about these challenges, rather than use alarmist political rhetoric to gain a political advantage just to win a Congressional campaign.
BGen Steve Cheney
Brigadier General, USMC (Ret)
Commanding General, Parris Island, 1999 – '01
Col. Roxanne W. Cheney
Colonel, USMC (Ret)
Fmr Director, Business Reform, MCAS Beaufort
James J. Wegmann
Captain, USMC (Ret)
JAG Officer, Parris Island, 1994 – '97
Chair, Military Enhancement Committee
Greater Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce
Col. Warren Parker
Colonel, USMC (Ret)
Series Commander, 1976 – '78
Lieutenant, Parris Island, 1976 – '78
CO, 6th USMC District, 1995 – '97
Col. Landon K. Thorne
Colonel, USMCR (Ret)
Series Officer and Company XO, 3rd Bn RTR
MCRD, Parris Island, 1969 – '70