Hundreds of miles away from her home in Cincinnati, Alexis Cain spent Thursday enjoying Thanksgiving festivities in Arlington Heights with people she's come to consider her family: Her fellow U.S. Navy recruits.
"They're my brothers, so I'm hanging out with my brothers -- and sisters," Cain, 18, said.
Cain was among 105 recruits from the Great Lakes Naval Station near North Chicago who celebrated the holiday at American Legion Post No. 208 as part of an annual Adopt-A-Sailor program.
With their families in Washington state, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere, the recruits were bused to the small legion hall for turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and other homestyle delicacies.
"(It's) way better than the galley food," Cain said between bites of turkey and sweet potatoes.
Like Cain, 22-year-old recruit Courtney Nobles spent her first Thanksgiving away from her family. She said she felt welcomed by the veterans and volunteers at the American Legion hall.
"I feel like I'm at home," said Nobles, of Fredericksburg, Virginia. "We get a day just to relax and enjoy each other."
As the recruits ate, two TVs showed the Bears vs. Detroit football game. Volunteer Dee Koontz said the recruits were Bears fans for the day, regardless of what team they support back home.
She called the gathering "inspiring."
"They are a wonderful group of people," Koontz said. "And I love how polite they are."
Many of the recruits stepped into a backroom to telephone their families.
June You surprised his parents in Carmel, Indiana, with a call. They passed the phone around to other relatives that had gathered for the holiday.
"It's really nice to have that phone call," You, 19, said.
An a cappella group called the Arlingtones entertained the recruits before the feast was served. Some of the recruits joined the group for a rousing rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas."
After lunch, the recruits were invited to enjoy free movies at Star Cinema Grill and bowling at Beverly Lanes.