GURNEE, Ill. (WLS) -- Many of the sailors stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Base in northwest suburban Gurnee were not able to go home for Thanksgiving.
So volunteers across the Chicago area made sure they didn't go without on Thursday, and Gurnee was just one of the places where those sailors got a warm welcome and hot meal on Thanksgiving.
It's a tradition that intensified post 9/11 when sailors shifted from being adopted out to people's homes to a more centralized Thanksgiving celebration.
"It's a way to praise the lord," said Rev. Christopher Stephens. "Let us serve you."
The recruits were shy at first but relaxed, sharing the room with so many on this special day.
"It felt weird. I am not used to that, being around this environment," said Melvin Jackson from California.
Earlier, the sailors made good use of donated cellphones and Skype messaging, hungrily exchanging messages of love from family they've not been in contact with for weeks.
"It has been awhile since I talked to my grandma and she's been waiting for my call," said Shaila Unday, who is stationed at the base.
The meal included 36 deep fried turkeys and every classic Thanksgiving side.
"I come back in the chow line, I only have 10 minutes to eat, so I just shove everything down, I am always hungry too," said soldier Bardosz Naga.
For these young people, being served is a trip.
"I never thought I would get this while I was in boot camp," said Eudi Delacruz, a soldier from New York.
Community serves sailors away from home on Thanksgiving