The Villa Park Adopt-a-Marine Thanksgiving is a program that hosts Marines on Thanksgiving who cannot travel home for the holiday. This program provides the opportunity for Marines to share thanksgiving with a surrogate family and for host families to open their homes up to Marines.
About the Thanksgiving Marine Event
The day begins on Thanksgiving where one member from a host family drives to Camp Pendleton via limo to pick up the Marines. Upon the arrival at the Villa Park Town Center the Marines can find a welcome sign, snacks and the Villa Park Community Band. There is a brief photo event than they are off to the host families for Thanksgiving festivities and dinner.
At the end of the day, a member of the host family and Marines take the trip back to Camp Pendleton.
The Villa Park Marine Thanksgiving annual event is supported by volunteers and The Villa Park Community Services Foundation. Additional support comes from the Villa Park Rotary and local merchants who donate items and services for the event. The founders of this event are Rick & Bonnie Barnett.
About the Camp Pendleton ASYMCA’s Adopt-a-Marine Program
The Villa Park Adopt-a-Marine program is part of the Camp Pendleton ASYMCA’s Home Hospitality program which started in 1975. Typically over 1,000 Marines are hosted by the community each year. Participating Marines are mostly from the School of Infantry who have just graduated from boot camp. However, any active-duty service member stationed on Camp Pendleton can participate in the program.
- Students must travel in pairs since they are new to the Marine Corps
- A minimum of two Marines per household
- Marines are not allowed to drive thus community members must pick them up and drop them off
- Pick-up times are usually set between 7:30 – 9:30 AM
- Return time is between 5:30 – 7:30 PM
- School of Infantry (SOI) Command does not allow times to be modified
If you’re outside Villa Park but would still like to To Adopt-a-Marine call the Armed Forces YMCA at 760-385-4921.
Tips for Hosting a Marine
- Give them time warm-up, relax and offer to let them take a nap (it’s a long day).
- Suggest they bring a change of clothing given they will be in uniform.
- Thank them for their service.
- Provide a tour of the house and location of restrooms and where to relax.
- Turn the television on in order to watch football, basketball, etc.
- Offer to let them call home and allow them privacy to make their call(s).
- Incorporate any of their Thanksgiving traditions and customs, if possible.
- Take pictures and videos, share them but get permission before posting on social media.
- Share photos and videos of past Thanksgiving dinners with Marines.
- Have food available upon their arrival since dinner may be several hours away.
- Keep in touch, connect with them on social media or get their contact information.
- Ask them if they would like to take leftover home.
- Try to do too much like cook their favorite meals. They’re away from home and their families and they will be appreciate of a Thanksgiving Day in your home.
- Offer tobacco or alcohol products.
- Pepper them with questions and conversation all at once. Let them get acclimated and relax.
- Make the conversation about you and all of your service experience.
- Stay clear of sensitive or derogatory subjects e.g. politics.