Adopt-a-Sailor Program Benefits Recruits During Holidays
(January 9, 2011)
|NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS - 1/4/2011) -- More than 3,000
Recruit Training Command (RTC) recruits took part in the
Adopt-a-Sailor program, Dec. 25.|
As part of RTC's annual involvement in the program,
the recruits were afforded the opportunity to spend the day
off base with their families or with a local civic
"The Adopt-a-Sailor program allows RTC to get involved with
the community over the holidays," said Capt. Steven G.
Bethke, RTC commanding officer. "Many recruits are spending
their first Thanksgiving or Christmas away from home, so
phone calls, good company and food help lift their spirits."
The program affords recruits the
GREAT LAKES, Ill. (Dec. 25, 2010) Recruits and family members embrace as they meet on Christmas morning in the Recruit Training Command (RTC) visitor's center. The recruits were taking part in the yearly Adopt-A-Sailor program. The annual program allows family members of eligible recruits to spend the day together off base. Recruits were also allowed to bring along a recruit buddy to spend the day with them. More than 1,200 recruits whose families could not make it to RTC were adopted for the day in groups of 25-to-100 by local civic organizations.
opportunity to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas
Day with their families or with locals. Eligible
Christmas Adopt-a-Sailor recruits included those
scheduled to graduate Jan. 7 and Jan. 14.
year, 213 families arrived Christmas morning to meet their
recruits with whom they haven't seen since they left for
RTC. At the USS Yorktown visitor center, the families
reunited with their recruits who shared smiles, laughter,
hugs and tears as they spotted one another. Recruits were
allowed to bring one fellow recruit from their training
group to accompany them for the day.|
For one parent,
this was not an opportunity to be missed no matter how far
he had to travel. Joseph Starling, originally from Dallas,
Texas, flew in from Nigeria to see his son, Seaman Recruit
Jordan Starling for one day.
"I'm excited about
seeing my boy," Starling said. "When I heard about this
opportunity I knew I had enough frequent flyer points to fly
over. I rescue orphans in Nigeria, and they would all be
here if they could be, to see Jordan. He's got a whole group
of African orphans cheering him on."
generous friends, newlyweds Linnea Allen and Seaman Recruit
Jack Allen, of Pinon Hills, Calif., were able to spend the
"I didn't have the funds to make the
trip here," Linnea Allen said. "I put something up on
Facebook about possibly not being able to come out, and
friends were sending me e-mails within hours. They took up a
collection for me to come here and paid for the entire trip.
A bunch of them donated, including some people I don't even
For recruits whose families were unable to
visit RTC, they went in groups of 25 to 200 with
organizations from local churches, Veterans of Foreign Wars
or American Legion posts. The majority of organizations and
volunteers have continually supported the program throughout
the years by providing a day of food, movies, video games,
music and phone calls home. In all, 12 organizations adopted
more than 1,000 recruits for Christmas, and more than 1,200
recruits were adopted by 19 organizations during
For the past 10 years, 30 volunteers
with a local Chicago pub have worked to provide an average
of 100 recruits with a day filled with activities.
"The original owners started participating 10 years ago and
then we took over about seven years ago," said Leisa
Hancock, co-owner. "Once we saw what a good thing it was to
bring them all in and treat them to Christmas and how
grateful they all were, we knew we would continue the
The recruits arrived on tour buses and
were treated to a day of food, pastries donated by a local
bakery, movies, video games, computer access and phone
"For a few years, a corporation donated phones
for the recruits to use, but they stopped doing that," said
Ken Hancock, co-owner of the pub. "So we just put out the
word in the neighborhood and to friends, relatives and (the
local) police department, that we needed cell phones for the
recruits to use. Everyone comes by to lend their phones.
Sometimes the phones are here for an hour, sometimes, eight
Seaman Recruit David Harvey, 19, of Denver,
Colo., was grateful for the phone access as he called his
"It was one of those feel-good moments for me
to hear my mom's voice," said Harvey. "Back home, I used to
wake up early in the morning on Christmas and hang stockings
with my family and now at boot camp it's totally different."
Aside from standing in line for phone usage, the
recruits also lined up to use laptops so they could access
their Facebook accounts.
"Hopefully, I can get online
and leave a message for my brother on Facebook," said Seaman
Recruit Ian Yates, 23, of Bellevue, Neb. "We are real close
even though I didn't live by him. We'd always text or call
one another, but now at boot camp, I have to go back to
writing and he's not much of a writer. It takes days for
letters to go back and forth. Leaving a message on Facebook
The Adopt-a-Sailor program tends to
bring much of an organization's community together as
hundreds of volunteers spend months planning the event and
raising the necessary funds to feed the recruits.
the past 11 years, the Morton Grove American Legion Post 134
in Morton Grove, Ill., has never had any issues finding
enough support from the community. The post adopted 50
recruits at Thanksgiving.
"Our village loves the
promotion," said Casey Bachara, Post 134 Adopt-a-Sailor
committee chairman. "Our post has been invited to village
board meetings to help promote this more to help make it
bigger. It's a fun day, and we've gotten some response back
from some of the families. We create a DVD of photos we've
taken and then send it to every family if the recruits
provide their home address."
Many volunteers are
veterans themselves who can empathize with the recruits who
are away from their families for the holidays including
Richard Bollig, of Chicago, who has assisted with the
program for the past four years.
"I'm an Army vet,
and I was in the same boat at one point and far away from
home," Bollig said. "I want to do something for our
"I'm a Marine vet," said Bob Brieskey, of
Chicago. "I spent two Christmases away from home so I know
what it's like. We bring our phones here so the recruits can
use them to phone home."
While the phone calls may
have appeared to be the most popular part of the recruits'
day, for many it was those who made it all possible that
impressed them the most.
"The highlight of the day
has been the volunteers," Yates said. "Honestly, I thought
we were going to spend the day in the barracks shining shoes
and hanging out. All the support the volunteers are giving
us is incredible. Words can't describe what this means to
Evelia Luna, of Chicago, who has volunteered
with the program for 10 years, said it's all about the
"I find meaning in doing something
different on Christmas," Luna said. "I have four children
and eight grandchildren, and Christmas d` ay is for the
Sailors. My family gets Thanksgiving and New Years'; the
Sailors get Christmas. It's a home for them for one day to
eat and have fun with each other."
And at the end of
day, before the recruits returned to base, they give the
gift of music to more than 30 volunteers.
sang 'Anchors Aweigh'," Leisa Hancock said. "More than 100
men and women singing at once sends shivers through us.
They're great. When they leave, we feel like we're so close
Article and photo By
Recruit Training Command Public Affairs
Navy News Service
Comment on this article