Arlington Heights American Legion Post, volunteers ensure Great Lakes recruits feel right at home
The 35 Great Lakes Naval Station recruits loaded onto the bus were smartly dressed in their Garrison caps, white scarves and cold-weather parkas. They yelled "Hoo-Yah! ... Freedom! ... Hoo-Yah! ... Liberty!" as the bus rolled south on Interstate 94 toward American Legion Post 208 in Arlington Heights.
It was the 23rd annual Sailors' Thanksgiving dinner. The recruits were met in Arlington Heights by a police escort and taken to the doorstep of the Legion hall.
For most of these recruits, this freedom was the first since their sequestration of six to eight weeks for training. Their songs on the bus ride reflected their joyful mood.
Marshare Roserhule, 36 and from Jamaica, gave up a life as a singer and actress in New York to wear her Navy uniform, sitting proudly with her fellow recruits a long way from home.
"It means a lot for me to go to the American Legion because being in boot camp is kind of stressful," she said. "You don't get the freedom (while training), and this is freedom for one day. I thank God we are doing this day. I appreciate it."
Army veteran Brian Jones of Arlington Heights was on kitchen duty along with many volunteers, outnumbering recruits 2-1. He checked the ovens where 16 donated turkeys kept warm after having them cooked by others around the suburbs.
"The biggest chore is getting it all together. It's a great feeling to see the look on their faces," Jones said, referring to the recruits standing in the chow line.
Greg Padovani, chairman of the Veterans Memorial Committee in Arlington Heights, said: "It's a really important day for them, and what we do is try to give them everything we can in terms of dinner, fellowship and fun so that they can feel like they're appreciated for the service to our nation.
"Think about it," Padovani continued. "Your sons and daughters are away from home on a major holiday ... and feeling lonely. Someone has to give them a good home-cooked meal."
The recruits were treated to free phone service and phone cards, turkey sandwiches and other refreshments for the ride back to Great Lakes.