MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
With the holidays quickly approaching, many service members are making plans to travel and visit family and friends. But some service members may not have the option to submit leave, buy a plane ticket, or get away from the desert.
It is with those service members in mind that the Combat Center’s Single Marine Program offers the Adopt-a-Marine program.
The program allows local families, couples or individuals to welcome a Marine or sailor into their homes for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
LaVonne Lessard, the SMP Coordinator, handles requests regarding the adoption of Marines and sailors.
“It’s a great time and gives the guys a chance to get off base and eat a home cooked meal,” said Lessard, a Yucca Valley, Calif., native.
Lessard added the SMP staff does their best to match service members up with hosts that have similar interests or tastes in food.
Butch Seals, a retired Cathedral City native, said he has opened his doors to young Twentynine Palms service members for years.
“Last year I had three Marines come over,” said Seals. “I let them use my pool, my pool table, my dart board and pretty much everything else I have.”
Despite the fact Seals has no military experience, he said he holds service members in the highest regard for what they do.
“I do this for them because of what they do for us,” he said. “They are far away from home, and I can imagine what that feels like. The least I can do is fill them up with good food.”
MaryAnn Rataj, a travel account manager with a travel company called Excellence and Motivation, said she felt similarly about offering warriors a break and a full plate.
Rataj, who said she plans on inviting eight to 10 service members to an annual Thanksgiving dinner event for a corporate client, grew up in a military family and has a deep appreciation for those who chose to serve.
“We want to acknowledge those who serve our country,” said Rataj, a Horton, Mich., native. “Being from a military family, I know what those folks do. If any of them are going to be away from home, we’d love to have them to attend.”
Lessard encourages both service members and volunteers to participate in the program this year.
“You’re providing meals to heroes,” said Lessard about potential volunteers. “That’s something to keep in mind. When you give, you feel like a better person. You can feel that fulfillment in your heart when you give to those who need help.”
More information about the Adopt-a-Marine Program is available on the Web site, http://www.ryanrust.com or by calling SMP at 830-4767.