MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
At Thanksgiving, families come together from all over to start celebrating the holiday season. Many Marines will travel home to see their families, but some Marines are not afforded that luxury because they are in the middle of training at the School of Infantry-West on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The Armed Services Young Men’s Christian Association created the Home Hospitality Adopt-a-Marine to solve that problem.
“The training schedule for the School of Infantry does not allow Marines enough time to travel home for the holidays,” said Vanessa Anderson, the community relations and event manager for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton’s ASYMCA.
The Home Hospitality Adopt-a-Marine for Thanksgiving Program was created several years ago. Many families open up their homes for the Marines of SOI to come celebrate Thanksgiving. Families will “adopt” two Marines so they can enjoy a home-cooked meal on Thanksgiving Day. Approximately 1300 Marines participate in this program each year.
“When we were told about the opportunity I noticed that everyone’s faces lit up,” said U.S. Marine Pfc. Damion Charlescon, a student with Lima Company, Marine Combat Training Battalion, SOI-West, Camp Pendleton. “To have people, we don’t know, reach out to us and welcome us into their homes for a family holiday means a lot.”
The SOI-West Marines will begin their day at 7 a.m. when the families pick them up from the SOI-West parade deck. From there, the families will take them to their home and give those Marines the family holiday experience they are missing by not going home. The Marines will return to SOI-West later that evening, after the conclusion of the Thanksgiving Day meal.
Families volunteering for the program are asked to adopt two Marines but may adopt more. Families must fill out a registration form with the ASYMCA and the command to volunteer for the program.
“We adopted seven Marines our first year,” said Robert Frackelton, a Home Hospitality Adopt-a-Marine for Thanksgiving Program volunteer. “My wife and kids absolutely loved it. We continue to adopt almost every year, and we adopt more Marines each time.”
The program has been going for over twenty years and continues to grow in volunteers. It was designed to make the Marines feel at home when they are away from home during the holidays.
"Most of the Marines in SOI-West are spending their first holidays away from their families," said Anderson. "Giving them an experience like this can help them through being homesick, and give them a better mindset to continue on in their current training throughout the holiday season."
“It’s a bummer not going home,” said Charlescon. “But having a home-cooked meal and being in a home around good people makes it feel like home.”