Hammond church welcomes sailors on Christmas

December 25, 2011 9:32:33 PM PST
Hundreds of naval recruits could not be at home this holiday, so a church in Hammond, Ind. did the best it could to make itself feel like home.

"They go out and fight for our country and everything and we try to make them feel at home," said Hammond resident Jeff Roberts.

On Christmas Day, these military service men and women are away from family and the familiar, some for the first time ever.

"I'm only 18 and it just feels great - none of my family is here, but I feel accepted," said naval recruit Gideon Whitaker. "I'm having a good time."

Close to 400 sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Base in North Chicago got a traditional home-cooked holiday meal.

"Corn, turkey, some mashed potatoes and apple pie," said naval recruit Diobanni Torres.

They also got a home away from home for one day.

"Whenever you're at barracks you're just - it's all uniform, so it's nice to get out and see there's other people that actually care about you," said naval recruit Ashley Reed.

Like Tim Case and his family, who began volunteering four years ago after his now 21-year old son Nathan joined the Navy. He is currently deployed overseas.

"By us doing this, it's almost like he's here - it's pretty close to him being here, it's the same thing, it's something you hope somebody does for him while he's out there," said Tim Case.

This was the eighth year the servicemen's ministry of First Baptist Church of Hammond has participated in the Adopt a Sailor program.

"It's incredible when somebody reaches out to you and says 'You know what, we want to care about you, we want you to know that we care about you,'" said Pastor Brian Cassada of First Baptist Church of Hammond. "A lot of people say it, very few people actually demonstrate it - we wanted to make sure they got it demonstrated today."

Along with the hospitality, the sailors got to work off the meals of the day before calling loved ones. That was emotional for Aikkiko Nickler, who finally got to chat with her dad before he has back surgery.

"Today, when I got my phone call and he answered, all the tears just started falling out and it just felt good to actually hear from him," said Nickler.

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