MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Spending Thanksgiving without my family is something I never like to do, but sometimes being in the military--understandably makes that tough. Now that the holiday has come and gone, and I wasn’t be able to make it home, I was incredibly fortunate to experience the next best thing. Thanks to the Home Hospitality Event (HHE) hosted by the School of Infantry-West (SOI-W) and the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA), I didn't have to spend the holiday alone.
The goal of HHE is to provide an opportunity for Marines to enjoy the holidays when they are away from home. Although the event is mainly focused towards Marines going through Marine Combat Training (MCT) the program is open to any active duty permanent personnel on Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Pendleton.
“Thanksgiving is not just a time to be thankful for what we have but a time to be thankful that we are fortunate enough to give to others,” Michael Dittamo, director of administration, SOI-W, “I think the goal is to establish a partnership with Marine Corps and the local communities that support us. Also for no other reason than to just give back because of the gratitude that they have for you.”
Out of approximately one thousand Marines, I was paired up with the Sahargun’s family. I woke up Thursday morning excited from the idea that I had somewhere to go and that someone was looking forward to seeing me. Walking into an unfamiliar home wasn’t uncomfortable the moment I was greeted by Heather Sahargun. Heather introduced me to at least 15 people, including eight fellow Marines before she offered me a home cooked breakfast, something I haven’t enjoyed in quite some time.
“We’ve always had a ton of respect for what [service members] do,” said Paul Sahargun. “After participating in the [HHE] for over 11 years, opening our home to the Marines of Camp Pendleton is 100 percent part our tradition for Thanksgiving.”
Thanksgiving for my family is always the biggest family get together of the year. Being with the Sahargun’s, I realized it was almost the same. Friends, families and neighbors stopped by throughout the day just to say hi and have a conversation with us.
“People flow in and out that want to see the Marines. When they come, it has some personal meaning to them. It’s much bigger than saying the basic “thank you for your service,” said Paul. Each year is different, and hosting the Marines gets right to the core of what giving thanks is really about.”
Acknowledging what we, as military members do for a living, is something we appreciate to hear from time to time. The fact of the matter is that as a Marine, we don’t live normal lives. Knowing how much we are appreciated, and the level to which the Sahargun’s and other families in this program demonstrated this Thanksgiving, is incredible. Spending my Thanksgiving with the Sahargun’s gave me a boost of motivation and realization of what I’m a part of.
“A Marines career is to give to those who live in America and so many people within the community outside of base want to give back to those were dedicate their lives to giving to others,” said Dittamo
Before dinner Paul said a prayer that stuck with me throughout the night.
“We give thanks with grateful hearts to these men and women of our country who venture much for the liberties we enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of the land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept the disciplines.”
“I just feel so much love, connection and gratitude and hope that relationships have formed through the day. The day is really about supporting the Marines and giving back.” Heather stated, with a smile.