“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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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…