POINT LOMA, Calif. (NNS) -- While many Sailors in the San Diego area braved the holiday traffic for a taste of a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal, some stayed behind - whether it was because they had to stand duty, couldn't afford a plane ticket, or were merely saving their leave for Christmas.
But thanks to the Armed Services YMCA's (ASYMCA) Thanksgiving Home Hospitality program and many local San Diegans, 25 Sailors who stayed behind were treated to a Thanksgiving dinner.
The Thanksgiving Home Hospitality program, now in its 61st year, gives Sailors a chance to enjoy a home-cooked meal in a family environment with local residents. This year's event drew interest from more than 200 local families.
"I miss my family, and it just wasn't going to work out this year, having to pay for plane tickets for both Thanksgiving and Christmas," said Sonar Technician (Surface) Seaman Apprentice Michael Dozier, a student at Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center.
Dozier said that the opportunity not only affords Sailors a chance to eat a Thanksgiving meal, but it also allows an opportunity for them to interact with San Diegans.
"I'm really looking forward to meeting some of the people who live around here," said Dozier, a Stafford County, Va., native. "We've been so busy with 'A' school, I really haven't had the chance to meet anyone who knows a whole lot about the area."
The ASYMCA asks the Sailors and families to fill out a questionnaire before deciding what two Sailors will go with each family. According to Sara Heidenheimer, ASYMCA military program assistant, the questionnaire helps the ASYMCA match the Sailors with families who share the same interests.
Apparently the system works, because Heidenheimer said that many families end up adopting "their" Sailor, not only throughout the holiday season, but at other times, as well.
"When [the Sailors deploy], I've heard that a lot of families send care packages," said Heidenheimer.
Heidenheimer also said many of the families who signed up have made it a part of their Thanksgiving tradition.
Eric Sanderman and his sister Suzanne have been hosting Sailors for more than 20 years.
"It wouldn't be Thanksgiving if we didn't have a couple of [Sailors] join us," said Sanderman. "We've been in San Diego all of our lives, and we appreciate what the Navy does for our city. We appreciate what the Sailors do in terms of volunteering to defend our country, and this is our way of saying thanks."
Sanderman said the menu his family cooked up for his Sailors would tantalize their taste buds for some time to come.
"We've got a 25 pound turkey, 16 pounds of honey-baked ham - spiral cut with a nice sugar crusting," said Sanderman. "We've got 22 people coming...and everyone brings their specialty. My mom makes her yams with the melted marshmallows on top and pineapple cuts, three or four kinds of mashed potatoes, two or three kinds of homemade cranberry sauce...."
Sanderman went on to say that the meal session lasts for nearly three hours before sitting down to let the food digest, making room for the 12 different kinds of pie he had in store.
"[Our Sailors] will be very well-fed," said Sanderman.
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