Sailor Recruits Enjoy A Magical Thanksgiving

“Welcome aboard the USS Thanksgiving! At the helm today, we have Captain George who will be steering us into a magical port called Oak Park, Illinois — a place where they have TVs….computers….phones….and good food.”

The thirty-four sailor recruits cheered and ooooorah’d as we pulled out of Great Lakes Naval Training Center heading for a Thanksgiving Day to remember. Most of them had been told they would be picked up and taken to a community soup kitchen to serve dinner to poor homeless people — they had no idea that Mother Goose and Company had made other plans for them!

The day started at 7:30 a.m. at the garage of Mid-America Charter Lines in Elk Grove Village, IL. Mother Goose had been chosen as the hostess with the mostest for this most exciting day — of course, as a Navy Mom, Mother Goose is very familiar with young sailors and relished the idea of riding the tour bus to pick up the recruits at the boot camp so bright and earlie in the morning.

Mother Goose and Captain George Kousakis in front of the 46 passenger tour bus!

Mother Goose and Captain George Kousakis in front of the 46 passenger tour bus!

We arrived at the base in plenty of time and with just a little bit of run-around, we loaded up the recruits. The U.S. Navy has implemented the Adopt-A-Sailor program for the recruits who can’t get home for the holidays. Organizations can apply to adopt as many recruits as they can accommodate, and if the application is accepted, you get to pick up your sailors for the day! It’s such a GREAT program! Look at their smiling faces!

Onboard the USS Thanksgiving...

Onboard the USS Thanksgiving…

We arrived in our magical port where the computers, phones, TV and food were warmed up and ready for them. The sailors politely lined up to remove their coats, scarves, gloves, and covers (hats) and then politely asked where the computers and phones were. AND THEN THEY STARTED SMILING AND DIDN’T STOP SMILING FOR THE NEXT EIGHT HOURS!!!

In boot camp (also referred to as basic training), the recruits are completely unplugged. There are no TVs, no radios or music, no computers, no phones, no internet — nothing but marching and training and discipline and eating their meals in five minutes. They learn new names for things — the bathroom is now the “head”, hats are now “covers”, time is now measured in 24-hour segments, they are known by their last names only and there is no hugging.

So Mother Goose hugged them all day long.

These sailors immediately found their way to Facebook, their emails, their favorite online games and surprised their moms and dads (and in some cases, their wives!) with phone calls. Most of the guys and gals had not heard the voices of their families since they left their hometowns for boot camp five or six weeks earlier! Imagine the tears on the cheeks of the moms all across the country as they heard the voices of their young sailors…

"Thank you, Ma'am.  Is this Heaven?"

“Thank you, Ma’am. Is this Heaven?”

Checking in with family across the country.

Checking in with family across the country.

This is Edward -- he's from Puerto Rico and not especially liking the Chicago winters...

This is Edward — he’s from Puerto Rico and not especially liking the Chicago winters…

Ms Melvina, her caterer friend Kimberly chatting it up with some happy recruits.

Ms Melvina, her caterer friend Kimberly chatting it up with some happy recruits.

Besides the young recruits, our amazing team at Easter Seals also invited the veterans in our community who participate in our programs and services. It was a wonderful mix of young and old, squids and old salts, volunteers from all walks of life serving turkeys and the fixin’s donated and cooked by so many gracious helpers. It was a team effort and those are the best kinds of efforts according to this goose.

Dear Erin cooked a turkey and connected us with the amazing bus!

Dear Erin cooked a turkey and connected us with the amazing bus!

Retired Army Drill Sergeant Daniel, his wife and son Ethan served all day long.  They are the owners of an amazing online biz, Gruntstyle.com.  GREAT place to go on Cyber Monday for some VERY cool and patriotic American apparel.

Retired Army Drill Sergeant Daniel, his wife and son Ethan served all day long. They are the owners of an amazing online biz, Gruntstyle.com. GREAT place to go on Cyber Monday for some VERY cool and patriotic American apparel.

So many smiles...

So many smiles…

IMG_0536

The food line was amazing!  Seven turkeys, two hams and a partridge in a pear tree!

The food line was amazing! Seven turkeys, two hams and a partridge in a pear tree!

Our dinner with the recruits and veterans had a full agenda, including the Presentation of Colors by the Oak Park Police Department, poetry reading by Ms Josie Pierce of the American Women of Oak Park and Austin, presentations of roses to veterans and live music by a really talented musician named Ernie.

Ernie sang with passion and style about America and love of country, love of God.

Ernie sang with passion and style about America and love of country, love of God.

And then it was time to climb back aboard the USS Thanksgiving and head back to the base…hugs and tears all around. As Mother Goose climbed onto the bus, the sailors started singing at the top of their lungs!

“Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh. Farewell to foreign shores, We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay. Through our last night on shore, Drink to the foam, Until we meet once more. Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

Blue of the Mighty Deep; Gold of God’s Sun Let these colors be till all of time be done, done, done, On seven seas we learn Navy’s stern call: Faith, Courage, Service true, with Honor, Over Honor, Over All.”

When we arrived at the base, thirty four sailors filed out of the bus with thankful hearts and happy faces. Each and every one of them gave Mother Goose a GREAT BIG HUG and said “thank you” and “happy Thanksgiving” and “God bless you”. Mother Goose smiled…

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14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dianna
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 18:21:49

    Oh, what an amazing day that must have been! How wonderful to have been a part of it; thank you for sharing the day with us.

    Reply

    • Natalie
      Nov 30, 2013 @ 22:02:23

      Dianna, a production of this magnitude requires the sacrifice and dedication of a whole crew of volunteers. Mother Goose may have been the reporter of the event, but there was a very large selfless cast of players making this day possible. It was truly a labor of love for so many kind people…

      Reply

  2. jeff noel
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 18:43:19

    God Bless America, God Bless our Sailors, and God Bless Mother Goose and all her team of grateful, generous Americans for providing Amazing Grace to the team that ensures our ongoing Freedom.

    Reply

    • Natalie
      Nov 30, 2013 @ 22:07:58

      On September 28th, Miss Josie Pierce said to a circle of five friends in a parking lot, “Our next event will be to serve Thanksgiving Dinner to the sailors from Great Lakes, OK? Who’s on board?” Because we believe in each other, we all said “YES!”

      Indeed we are a fine team of Americans — like so many people who find in each other the faith and childlike wonder to dream BIG and then to work with creativity, strength and perseverance to the conclusion of the dream.

      Thank you, Jeff, for all the ways that you inspire people to do that kind of thing EVERY day!

      Reply

  3. Heather Thornton
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 19:01:59

    What an awesome day you created for those fine men and women!! I am sure the moms and dads that got those calls were very excited to hear their son/daughter.

    Reply

    • Natalie
      Nov 30, 2013 @ 22:12:14

      Heather, we really had the perfect facility for an event like this — the ‘puters, the phones, the huge dining area and kitchen. But with all the “stuff”, nothing would ever have happened without the helping spirit and the love of each and every volunteer who had a hand in the planning and execution of the dinner. It was fascinating to watch every person find their niche in the project and work to the best of their capacity to make this day memorable. Thank you so much for stopping by to visit with Mother Goose!

      Reply

  4. Kathy
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 19:57:05

    What an incredible thanksgiving story. I’m sure these sailors will remember this day forever.
    Thanks for all you do Mother G.

    Reply

    • Natalie
      Nov 30, 2013 @ 21:59:32

      Kathy, they are young and have a full life of adventures before them — seeing the world and living out their dreams. They will have bunches of fun Thanksgiving holidays. On the other hand, in all of my 54 years of Thanksgivings, this one will always stand out and be forever remembered as the most thankful one I’ve ever celebrated. Cheers to my adopted sailors!

      Reply

  5. Bunn
    Dec 01, 2013 @ 15:07:40

    This had to be one of the best Thanksgiving ever!!
    Soo many happy people!

    Reply

  6. Melvina Parkerwww.EasterSealsChicago.org/Military_Veterans
    Dec 04, 2013 @ 11:10:32

    I was blessed to help organize this event and I must say it was one of the most rewarding experience I have had. The willing volunteers the smiles on the recruits and veterans faces was so uplifting. it left me with a glow. The food was fantastic every body put a lot of love it. God Bless America

    Reply

    • Natalie
      Dec 04, 2013 @ 13:24:11

      Indeed, God Bless America and God bless YOU, Ms Melvina for all of the love you showed the folks there. Some people just jump in and bloom where they are planted, and that is definitely you, dear!

      Reply

  7. Marisa
    Dec 05, 2013 @ 17:40:23

    Can I just say thank you guys so much for what you do!! My husband was with you on thanksgiving and because of you guys and your generosity he got to talk to me for hours!!! It was so wonderful to hear his voice and it definitely made the holiday even more special. I had been wondering who adopted him so I could thank you. Now that I know, thank you so so so so much!!!

    Reply

    • Natalie
      Dec 06, 2013 @ 06:53:57

      Marisa, we were waaay overjoyed to throw this dinner for the guys! I have more pictures stored on dropbox — maybe there’s one of your husband. Please send me an email at ncramer1216@gmail.com so I can share the dropbox file with you. I hope that you will get to see your hubby soon — I probably talked to him…and he was very happy!

      Reply

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