'They deserve this': Communities give Navy recruits a family away from home for Thanksgiving
Chatting with her mother for the first time in a while, Tatieonna Brown excitedly told her about the "real coffee" she was getting to enjoy.
The coffee and phones were among the treats awaiting Navy recruits who were treated to a Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings at VFW Post 2801 in Villa Park. The post participated in the Adopt-A-Sailor program, hosting 45 recruits for the day. Mount Prospect VFW POst 1337 also adopted sailors for the day.
The recruits, many of whom graduate from basic training in a week, said they were grateful for the home-cooked feast and for time to relax and chat with each other, watch a football game or make a call home. Many also got a chance to visit with volunteers at the posts.
At the Villa Park VFW, students left thank you posters and created a candygram placed on each plate for the recruits.
"We haven't earned anything yet," said Mats Zdon, a 19-year-old recruit from Colorado and formerly of Chicago. "To see all these people come out for us ... it means a lot."
Seeing her daughter for the first time in weeks brought tears to the eyes of Brown's mother, Brandy Bogan. And though her daughter couldn't be home for the holiday, she was grateful people cared enough to go through the trouble of hosting Thanksgiving for Brown and other recruits.
"There's no other place I'd rather her be if it's not here (at home)," said Bogan, connecting with her daughter via FaceTime Thursday.
Mount Prospect VFW Post 1337 hosted the Adopt-a-Sailor program for the first time at the Moose Lodge.
"We're just here to thank them for their service, welcome them and let them have a good time," said Army veteran Casey Bachara of Mount Prospect.
While Zdon humbly acknowledged as a recruit he hadn't done anything to earn the support, seasoned veterans knew differently.
"They deserve this," said Jim Blankshain, commander of Villa Park VFW Post 2801. "I don't know where they're going to go from here, but wherever it takes them they're still fighting for our freedom."
The same sentiment was echoed in Mount Prospect.
"It's veterans helping veterans," said Les Durov, commander of VFW Post 1337 in Mount Prospect. "We've got new recruits ... and we want them to know what's ahead of them and what they can expect."
The recruits said they enjoyed the chance to get to talk to veterans and the many volunteers who showed up to help serve the meal and make them feel welcome.
"It's really great to experience and see how awesome people are still out in the world," said Corey Miekosz, a 30-year-old recruit from San Diego who enjoyed spending time at the Villa Park VFW. "It feels special."
Parkview Community Church of Glen Ellyn also partnered with New Hope Church in Villa Park to host a community Thanksgiving in Villa Park. Volunteers served up hundreds of meals for people who stayed at the church to eat or took the meals home. Parkview also delivered about 350 meals to homebound residents in the area.
"We realize there's a lot of people in our community who don't have the resources or will be alone and we certainly don't want them to go without," said Ray Kollbocker, lead pastor at Parkview Community Church.