Hundreds of marines and sailors celebrate Thanksgiving in a special way

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - It’s the season of giving, and our local armed forces are celebrating the holiday weekend in a special way.

“We put the word out to the students at the schoolhouse at NAS Meridian that we were going to have a little gathering here at the FRA that if the students were not doing anything it would be great to come with us. We have a shuttle running back every hour so that they can partake in the Thanksgiving Day,” Master Sergeant Jason Bornfleth said.

The local post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Red Cross held the special thanksgiving feast for veterans and current NAS Meridian Students.

The purpose of the meal is to provide a home-friendly experience for the many men and women spending the holiday away from their families.

“It is hard being away from family. Don’t get to see them much. It’s been probably about almost a year since I’ve seen my family roughly, but it’s nice. Like this is my family. My home away from home,” Private First Class Leanna Tacik said.

Ricky Nelson is the manager of the Fleet Reserve Association. Nelson says he stood in the same shoes of these sailors nearly 50 years ago.

"I put 22 years of service as a CB and 5 tours at Vietnam. So I know how it is to be away from home and everything and not have a thanksgiving meal. So I couldn't express the gratitude that I have for putting this on," RFA manager Ricky Nelson said.

With an opportunity to spend the holidays with his family – Nelson chose to serve a bigger purpose and give back to his community.

“I’d rather be here with these students. Give them a chance and hey, I’m 78 years old. I can celebrate Thanksgiving until tomorrow,” Nelson said.

This is the 6th year the FRA has held this event. Over 150 sailors and marines were fed at the Thanksgiving Meal. Donations to hold the feast came from several different people and organizations from the community.