Across the nation, members of the American Legion Family led efforts to bring Thanksgiving meals to members of their communities.
And, in some cases, they also provided a holiday experience for future U.S. servicemembers.
American Legion posts in Illinois opened their facilities to recruits going through basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes. Similar efforts took place in Florida with Navy recruits and in New Jersey with U.S. Coast Guard recruits.
In the Chicago area, American Legion Post 208 (Arlington Heights), Post 525 (Mount Prospect) and Post 974 (Franklin Park) all hosted Navy recruits, bussing them in from their training facility for a break from basic training. The recruits were provided with multi-course Thanksgiving meals, entertainment, games and an opportunity to call family and friends back home.
Post 208 has hosted the recruits for 23 years. One of this year’s guests, Indianapolis native Jason Webb, appreciated the chance to call home. "I got to hear my mother's voice, she was happy," Webb said. "I told her I was going to see her soon. She knows I'm almost done."
In Pensacola, Fla., 25 sailors from NAS Pensacola Corry Station received a Thanksgiving meal from American Legion Post 340.
"I'm sure they are really missing their family. This is their first time away,” Post 340 Legion Family member Mary Willemstein said. “They miss being around their family and we try to be a family to them.”
And in New Jersey, 50 cadets from the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May were Thanksgiving guests of American Legion Clark-Eliason Post 352 in Somers Point. The post provided lunch and dinner, including a traditional Thanksgiving meal, while the recruits also were able to play games and watch football. It was the 15th year Post 352 has hosted the recruits.
Recruits arrived at the American Legion at 11:30 a.m. sharp and were planning to stick around into the evening enjoying food, mingling with veterans, playing games and watching the NFL on the three TVs behind the bar.
“Because they are away from home, we can feed them like they’re family, because we’re the closest thing to family,” Post 352 Commander Robert Frolow said. “It’s nice. It lets them be much more comfortable. You’re away from home, but you’re really not away from home.”
The following are a few other examples of how the Legion Family stepped up to assist others over Thanksgiving. Posts are urged to share their stories and pictures at www.legiontown.org.
In Safford, Swift-Murphy Post 32 continued its more than 40-year tradition of hosting a community Thanksgiving dinner. The post prepared 30 turkeys and 22 hams, serving more than 500 meals. Of those, 200 were delivered to homebound seniors, as well as first responders working on Thanksgiving.
In Salinas, American Legion Post 31 served more than 800 meals to the community, as well as provided to-go meals. More than 30 volunteers contributed to the effort.
In Fountain, American Legion Post 38 hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner for the public. And earlier in the month, members of American Legion Riders Chapter 38 delivered Thanksgiving baskets to families in need.
In Lewes, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 17 provided gift cards to 30 families in need identified by local schools.
In Delray Beach, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 65 donated five Thanksgiving dinner baskets to families in need.
In Worth, Marrs-Meyer Post 991’s Legion Family provided 43 homes with Thanksgiving baskets that included a frozen turkey, ground beef, chicken and non-perishables.
In Polk City, American Legion Riders Chapter 232’s 12th annual Holiday for Heroes event delivered 450 meal boxes to local veterans. The boxes included turkeys, potatoes, vegetables, rolls and pies.
In Cambridge, Dorchester Auxiliary Unit 91’s annual Thanksgiving dinner provided 200 dinners to post members, as well as local first responders. The unit also delivered meals to Legion Family members and other veterans who were homebound, ill or in a nursing home.
In Gloucester, Capt. Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3 prepared its annual Thanksgiving dinner that provided nearly 700 delivered meals to residents of Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, Essex, Ipswich, Wenham and Hamilton.
In Pleasant Valley, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 789 donated 25 pies to the Village Ecumenical Ministries Food Pantry to use in the pantry’s Thanksgiving basket giveaway.
In Erie, American Legion Post 571 and the Wesleyville Hose Company teamed up to provide a free Thanksgiving Day dinner to members of the community. The idea for the meal was a collaboration between Post 571 Legionnaire Frank Hall and Wesleyville Hose Company Fire Chief Pete Kloszewski.
“We have been both been deployed, and sometimes you just do not have somewhere to go, and it sure beats having to sit down and have a Hungry-Man Dinner while sitting by yourself,” Hall said. “We need to have comradeship and that is what the purpose of this is.”
Hall also praised all those who helped make the meal possible. "The community response has been amazing, the response by the American Legion Family, Wesleyville Hose Company, the entire Borough of Wesleyville, Harborcreek and Lawrence Park has been unbelievable,” he said. “I could not be more proud of the community right now.”
In Spring Branch, American Legion Post 654 was one of four locations taking part in Operation Turkey. In less than two hours, the post facilitated the delivery of more than 2,700 to area residents in need and first responders who worked on Thanksgiving Day.
In Williamstown, American Legion Post 159 hosted its 18th free Thanksgiving dinner, as well as delivered meals to Williamstown and Waverly residents.
“It feels really heartwarming, and it feels amazing to touch so many people in the community,” Post 159 Legion Family member Darla Van Horn said. “I said earlier this year that donations this year have been immense from all the sports teams, local businesses, families have just turned out in droves to turn them in. And we really feel it’s important to share this Thanksgiving with so many people in any way we can coming in, having them pick up meals, or delivering something to their area locally.”
In Saratoga, members of American Legion Post 54 staged its fourth late-day free potluck buffet dinner that was open to members, friends and the public. The post provided five turkeys and one ham, while Legion Family members and others were invited to bring in a side dish. More than 60 people attended the meal.