Thanksgiving meals for service members

18 Nov 2011 | Pfc. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera

While plenty of service members are on their way home for the Thanksgiving holiday, there are still plenty of places itching to provide comfort and a slice of home to service members and their families.

Through the recreation centers, the USO of North Carolina-Jacksonville center and homes in the community, service members and their families aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and neighboring installations will be able to experience a traditional Thanksgiving meal with all of the usual perks, despite being away from home.

Active-duty service members, retirees and their families will be welcome to the USO of North Carolina-Jacksonville center, where familiar faces will be cooking up meals for those who visit and for service members who will be working through the holiday. They will be providing traditional feasts for nearly 3,000 people.

"It's a comfortable place to spend the day," said Deb Fisher, the director of USO-North Carolina-Jacksonville.

She said people spend the day watching football and some may even head outside to play a game for themselves. There is also TV with children's programming to keep the younger visitors entertained, along with their usual activities.

"There's a sense of family," said Fisher. "Everybody's in a good mood and they forget they're not with their families."

Single and geographical bachelors will be able to experience a feast at their recreation centers and chow halls. With dedicated staff working through the holiday, the recreation centers will have military leaders serving traditional meals, with the exception of Camp Johnson and Camp Geiger, which will be providing a casual approach with pizzas and subs as most service members there will have eaten their meals at the chow halls.

Through a National Football League all-access football program and with plenty of TV's, the recreation centers will have a multitude of ways to catch the day's sports. They will also provide their usual activities and services. Marines and sailors will have other service members around for some camaraderie.

"We're very happy to provide service members with a home away from home," said Josepha Cordero, the recreational specialist manager with the Central Recreation Center aboard MCB Camp Lejeune. "We'll make it their special day."

Nearly 300 service members will be going to the homes of local families in nearby communities. Families from New Bern, Wallace, and Wilmington will be hosting them for the day. The individual communities will welcome the troops in unique ways. The Wallace community, for instance, will have the service members escorted to a neighborhood breakfast by a fire truck and the Rolling Thunders, a patriotic motorcycle club.

The families are not only opening up their homes for the meal, but for the day, taking part in various activities and meeting new people.

"(Service members) come back and they have new families," said Susan Goodrich, the director of MCB Camp Lejeune's Single Marine Program. "Some have carried on their relationships with the families since the first year (of the program)."

Even for those who may be away from their family or unable to host a meal of their own this Thanksgiving, the base and local communities will offer many opportunities to celebrate the holiday with others.