Villa Park VFW hosts Thanksgiving dinner for Great Lakes recruits

November 28, 2013 (VILLA PARK, Ill.)

"It's really hard, it's not something I'm used to, being away from my family; it was really hard," said Nadesha Bygrava.

It's even more difficult during the holidays. These Navy recruits are away from home but got a chance to feel like they are family.

"When we got off the bus to get here, I just felt special. Everyone is clapping, shaking my hand, saying happy Thanksgiving. I felt like I meant something today," Bygrava said.

It's the Villa Park annual Thanksgiving dinner. Every year, recruits get bused in, fed, entertained, and most importantly, get a chance to call home.

These sailors are currently in boot camp, so they get very little time to talk to their families

"Oh, first thing was a good ol' 'Hi mom. I love you,' started tearing up a bit, as usual, told her where I was, that I am doing just fine and I'll be out soon," said Jeremy Heath, recruit.

The phones, food, drink and pretty much everything else is donated. The hard work of finding sponsors starts in July. Even the hugs came free from moms with sons and daughters in the service.

"This is a way for us to honor our kids who are serving and sacrificing, like kids today, they don't get to be with their families, so we're their substitute moms. We come and talk to them and give them our phones; they get to call their families," said Pat Leazemby, Molly's Adopt-A-Sailor Project.

But the volunteers will tell you, opening their doors each year to these young sailors means so much to them, too.

"What we do is we become their mom and dad for the day and make sure they are taken care of and they don't miss home," said Dennis Geiseman, commander of Villa Park VFW Post.

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