Arlington Heights American Legion Post, volunteers ensure Great Lakes recruits feel right at home

  • Naval recruit Paola Valdivia Gonzalez, 23, talks to her mom in Castle Rock, Colorado, as Donna Locher of Rolling Meadows, an auxiliary member of Arlington Heights American Legion Post 208, looks on after Thanksgiving dinner.

      Naval recruit Paola Valdivia Gonzalez, 23, talks to her mom in Castle Rock, Colorado, as Donna Locher of Rolling Meadows, an auxiliary member of Arlington Heights American Legion Post 208, looks on after Thanksgiving dinner. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Recruit Trevor Carson from Colorado thanks Donna Locher for her hospitality after Thanksgiving dinner at Arlington Heights American Legion Post 208.

      Recruit Trevor Carson from Colorado thanks Donna Locher for her hospitality after Thanksgiving dinner at Arlington Heights American Legion Post 208. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Station prepare to be shipped out to various American Legions posts, including Legion Post 208 in Arlington Heights, where 35 sailors enjoyed Thanksgiving Day.

      Recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Station prepare to be shipped out to various American Legions posts, including Legion Post 208 in Arlington Heights, where 35 sailors enjoyed Thanksgiving Day. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Naval recruits from Great Lakes went off base for the first time in eight weeks to celebrate Thanksgiving across the suburbs Thursday. One group spent the day at American Legion Post 208 in Arlington Heights.

      Naval recruits from Great Lakes went off base for the first time in eight weeks to celebrate Thanksgiving across the suburbs Thursday. One group spent the day at American Legion Post 208 in Arlington Heights. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Great Lakes recruits are welcomed to town by Arlington Heights Mayor Thomas Hayes. American Legion Post 208 and volunteers treated the group to Thanksgiving dinner.

      Great Lakes recruits are welcomed to town by Arlington Heights Mayor Thomas Hayes. American Legion Post 208 and volunteers treated the group to Thanksgiving dinner. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Station prepare to be shipped out to various American Legions and Veterans of Foreign War organizations around the area for Thanksgiving dinner.

      Recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Station prepare to be shipped out to various American Legions and Veterans of Foreign War organizations around the area for Thanksgiving dinner. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Station, like Nicolas Bredanni of California, prepare to be shipped out to various American Legion posts in the area, including American Legion Post 208 in Arlington Heights.

      Recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Station, like Nicolas Bredanni of California, prepare to be shipped out to various American Legion posts in the area, including American Legion Post 208 in Arlington Heights. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/28/2019 8:09 PM

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.

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"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.

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