'They deserve this': Communities give Navy recruits a family away from home for Thanksgiving

  • Center, Navy recruit Teleria Petion of Vero Beach, Florida, calls loved ones from the Moose Lodge in Mount Prospect.

    Center, Navy recruit Teleria Petion of Vero Beach, Florida, calls loved ones from the Moose Lodge in Mount Prospect. Karie Angell Luc for the Daily Herald

  • Navy recruit John Cruz of Lathrop, California, shows delight upon picking up an acoustic guitar. The Mount Prospect VFW Post 1337 partnered with the Moose Lodge to host 45 sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Station for Thanksgiving through the Adopt-A-Sailor program.

    Navy recruit John Cruz of Lathrop, California, shows delight upon picking up an acoustic guitar. The Mount Prospect VFW Post 1337 partnered with the Moose Lodge to host 45 sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Station for Thanksgiving through the Adopt-A-Sailor program. Karie Angell Luc for the Daily Herald

  • Nicholas Hernandez of Los Angeles strums an acoustic guitar at the Moose Lodge in Mount Prospect. The Navy recruit was grateful for the opportunity to relax and play some music during a Thanksgiving event for recruits.

    Nicholas Hernandez of Los Angeles strums an acoustic guitar at the Moose Lodge in Mount Prospect. The Navy recruit was grateful for the opportunity to relax and play some music during a Thanksgiving event for recruits. Karie Angell Luc for the Daily Herald

  • Christopher Higuera, center, of Visalia, California, was among the Navy recruits at the Moose Lodge in Mount Prospect who were able to talk to loved ones during a Thanksgiving event.

    Christopher Higuera, center, of Visalia, California, was among the Navy recruits at the Moose Lodge in Mount Prospect who were able to talk to loved ones during a Thanksgiving event. Karie Angell Luc for the Daily Herald

  • Far right, Ray Ariaz of Morton Grove performs music with colleagues and recruits at the Moose Lodge in Mount Prospect. Ariaz served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War era.

    Far right, Ray Ariaz of Morton Grove performs music with colleagues and recruits at the Moose Lodge in Mount Prospect. Ariaz served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War era. Karie Angell Luc for the Daily Herald

  • Tatieonna Brown, a 20-year-old Navy recruit from Connecticut, talks to her mother, Brandy Bogan, during a Thanksgiving meal hosted by the Villa Park VFW Post 2810. The post hosted 45 recruits from the Great Lakes Naval Station through the Adopt-A-Sailor program.

      Tatieonna Brown, a 20-year-old Navy recruit from Connecticut, talks to her mother, Brandy Bogan, during a Thanksgiving meal hosted by the Villa Park VFW Post 2810. The post hosted 45 recruits from the Great Lakes Naval Station through the Adopt-A-Sailor program. Alicia Fabbre | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteers from Parkview Community Church in Glen Ellyn partnered with New Hope Church in Villa Park to host a community Thanksgiving. The event was open to anyone, and meals were available as a carryout or dine-in option for guests.

      Volunteers from Parkview Community Church in Glen Ellyn partnered with New Hope Church in Villa Park to host a community Thanksgiving. The event was open to anyone, and meals were available as a carryout or dine-in option for guests. Alicia Fabbre | Staff Photographer

  • Navy recruits Corey Miekosz, front, 30, of San Diego, and Osmar Martinez, 19, of Oklahoma were grateful for a tasty Thanksgiving meal prepared by culinary arts students at the College of DuPage and served Thursday at Villa Park VFW Post 2801.

      Navy recruits Corey Miekosz, front, 30, of San Diego, and Osmar Martinez, 19, of Oklahoma were grateful for a tasty Thanksgiving meal prepared by culinary arts students at the College of DuPage and served Thursday at Villa Park VFW Post 2801. Alicia Fabbre | Staff Photographer

  • Tatieonna Brown excitedly shared that she was getting to drink "real coffee" as she chatted with her mother via FaceTime Thursday at the Villa Park VFW Post 2801.

      Tatieonna Brown excitedly shared that she was getting to drink "real coffee" as she chatted with her mother via FaceTime Thursday at the Villa Park VFW Post 2801. Alicia Fabbre | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/28/2022 5:56 PM
Editor's note: This article has been updated to say Les Durov is the commander of VFW Post 1337 in Mount Prospect, and it was the Mount Prospect VFW that hosted Navy recruits as well as the Villa Park VFW.

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.

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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.

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