MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Green leaves turn to vibrant warm colors marking the arrival of the fall. The season’s chills wane with the warmth of a long awaited Thanksgiving dinner, which brings family and loved ones.
For Marines who weren’t able to return home for the holiday, the Single Marine Program coordinated with three communities to have families adopt two or more service members for Thanksgiving.
The event was open to every Marine and sailor, but SMP targeted school commands because many of those Marines do not have vehicles and are not going home for the holiday, said Susan Goodrich, the director of SMP.
More than 400 Marines and sailors were invited to welcoming homes in New Bern, Wallace and Wilmington.
“This event started in New Bern with Fair Field Harbor,” said Goodrich. “They contacted me about six years ago and said they wanted to host ‘Adopt a Marine for Thanksgiving.’”
Goodrich said the number of Marines taken in by families greatly increased in the past five years.
“Last year a community called me to send 90 Marines down to Port City Java in Wilmington,” said Goodrich. “I didn’t have transportation at the time because it was late notice and they offered to provide it. This year they sent three buses to pick up 160 Marines for Thanksgiving.”
These communities have opened their homes to people they do not know, displaying how much they care about service members.
“These families are purchasing and preparing extra food and they want to make sure they have their name in the hat to get a Marine,” said Goodrich. “The families are hungry to embrace our Marines and sailors for the day.”
When the Marines arrived at the pickup location the families were outside waving flags and cheering.
A motorcade of bikers escorted the buses transporting one group of service members to River Landing, a gated community in Wallace, where they gathered at the club house for a community breakfast before leaving with families.
“It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed,” said Goodrich. “The Marines and sailors who go to these families don’t have a clue what to expect. What you see is families embrace and build a relationship with the service members. They not only give them a place to enjoy for the day and give thanks, but they adopt them in other ways as well.”
Although the families and service members only spent a day together, they grew close. The families exchanged emails and phone numbers with the Marines and sailors to stay connected.
“The end result is an amazing day,” said Goodrich. “The families are letting them know how thankful they are for serving our county. We know at the end of the day a difference was made.”