Troops go for turkey
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USO serves a crowd of more than 2,000
November 27, 2008 - 7:20 PM

Lance Cpl. Logan Hansen and Lance Cpl. Tim Gostling had plans for Thanksgiving.

Both are from the same hometown - Parris Island, S.C. - and both wanted to take leave for the holiday and visit New York.

Their leave was denied, so the Marines decided to do what so many have done for more than 60 years in Jacksonville - spend Thanksgiving at the United Service Organization enjoying a holiday feast.

"We might as well be family. He's the closest thing to family I have here," Hansen said, as he prepared to eat his plate full of food.

"It could definitely be worse," Gostling said as he filled his fork.

Tammy Price, who took over as USO center director Nov. 1, made sure troops knew the home away from home for service members would be open on Thanksgiving. Wednesday night, a group of young Marines was at the USO. Before they left, Price give them her business card and let them know there was a hot meal the next day. If they couldn't find a ride, they could call the number and she would find a way to get them to the USO.

"That just made me feel so good," said Price.

She said preparations actually began Tuesday for the traditional dinner of turkey, ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy and "every desert you can dream of," for Thursday's main event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

But the more than 75 turkeys weren't the only thing being served on Thanksgiving at the USO.

Cell phones - which were donated by volunteers - were available for active duty military to make a phone call home, football was on TV, there was an X-Box available for competition, as well as an X-Box and Wii available for individual play.

Cpl. Andrew Skelton planned to make a phone call later in the day, he said, to his mother.

His mom, Skelton said, is involved in the USO in Maine. When he realized he wouldn't be able to make it home for Thanksgiving he picked the next best thing.

"I didn't know what to expect but it's a pretty cool place," he said. "I have to call my mom and tell her she's right now."

By noon, Price was knee deep in her first USO Thanksgiving. She said more than 2,000 troops and their families came to the USO Thursday, with about 100 volunteers helping them have a great holiday meal.

"We have turkey and stuffing (left over) but we ran out of everything else," Price said. Desserts, which are all donated by the local community, were plentiful.

Contact Jacksonville/Onslow County reporter Amanda Hickey at 910-219-8461.