WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Neighbors from Porters Neck Country Club set the table for service members as many spend their first Thanksgiving away from family.
“It’s a little hard because where I come from, Puerto Rico, it’s like a big community,” said Pvt. Gilberto Santiago, who joined the U.S. Marine Corps just five months ago. “Everybody’s friends with everybody. It’s like a big family. My family’s really tight. On Thanksgiving, we usually do a big dinner party at my house. My mom cooks, I help her.”
Two hundred men and women traveled from Camp Lejeune to Porters Neck Country Club. It’s the second year for the event, and organizers say they were able to host twice as many as last year.
“These young men and women are sacrificing and serving our country every day,” said PNCC General Manager Jason Seehafer. “It’s something that we should be grateful for and thankful during this time, especially during the holidays when they’re away from their families.”
Four busloads of Marines and sailors unloaded in front of the clubhouse Thursday afternoon. The men and women are spending Thanksgiving with families in the golf community, enjoying traditional meals and a variety of activities. Some veterans will enjoy a game of golf or bocce ball, while others sit back to watch a football game or enjoy the appetizers laid out before the main course.
“I wanted not to be alone for Thanksgiving,” said Pvt. Jayden Williams. “I’ve got a bunch of my brothers and sisters around. I’m so happy that we can spend it together.”
“[I’ve] ever had nothing like this happen for me,” said Pvt. Cesar Martinez. “Like a big ‘thank you,’ … more of an action, more than words.”
Many of these servicemen and women are still in their teenage years, making families in porters neck all the more grateful for their sacrifice.
“I know their moms and dads want to know their kids — young kids — are having a good holiday because they can’t be with them,” said Rita Scull, whose late husband was once in their shoes as a servicemember. “I hope that that’s what they take away and that they can relay that to their own families — that they had a good holiday.”
It’s the second year the country club has hosted these veterans. This year, they’re serving nearly twice as many as before.
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