MOUNT PROSPECT, Ill. (WLS) — Many of us have the luxury of spending Thanksgiving with our friends and family.
But for many sailors going through training at Naval Station Great Lakes, family isn’t close by.
So, the Mount Prospect community is welcoming young recruits with open arms, giving them much to be thankful for Thursday.
The Star-Spangled Banner rang out through Mount Prospect’s VFW Post 1337 as nearly 50 of the Navy’s newest recruits stood at attention on Thanksgiving Day.
“It’s an honor now to thank them for their service like we’ve been thanked for our service,” said Casey Bachara, an Army veteran.
The recruits from Naval Station Great Lakes are part of the Adopt-A-Sailor program, which allows them to spend time in the community on Thanksgiving when they can’t be with their families.
Adopt-A-Sailor has been on pause for the past two years because of COVID, but this is the first time Mount Prospect has hosted the servicemen and women.
“To help these young recruits celebrate their Thanksgiving because they can’t go home today, it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Mount Prospect Mayor Paul Hoefert.
Recruits had rare chances to make phone and Zoom calls to their loved ones while sharing a Thanksgiving meal with veterans and soaking in all the wisdom they had to offer.
“It means a lot to me and it’s probably going to keep my spirits up for the next few weeks,” said Cassidy Hess, a Navy recruit from Philadelphia.
Today is her 20th birthday, a time she normally spends surrounded by her loved ones.
“I saw some kids playing football outside and I’m like, ‘oh, my gosh, that’s what I should be doing right now with my family,'” Hess said.
Recruit Nico Hernandez is from Los Angeles and says spending time off-base…and enjoying a warm meal with those who’ve served before him…provides much-needed respite.
“I’m really grateful here that they were able to make it cozy. It’s really good for us, it’s an amazing experience so far,” Hernandez said. “You’re getting yelled at all the time. You have to meet a certain standard and obviously a lot of these kids come out of high school and they aren’t able to fall back on their family.”
A military family, from one generation to the next, was just grateful to be together this Thanksgiving.
“When I see these young kids over here, it’s like more family,” Bachara said.
The recruits are in the final weeks of their training and are set to graduate early next month.
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