CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan --
The smell of turkey and cornbread emanating from endless mounds of home-cooked Thanksgiving food quickly filled the room, attracting nearly every resident of the barracks to its source.
Hundreds of miles away from their friends and family, the Marines and Sailors rushed for the opportunity of a Thanksgiving meal.
Hosted by the spouses of senior Marines and Sailors of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, single service members of the unit celebrated Thanksgiving with a bounty of home-cooked dishes as part of the Taste of Home program here, Nov. 20.
“Most of these Marines do not have family here in Okinawa,” said Lucille Gonzalez, a spouse that volunteered to help with the Taste of Home. “When we come here, we are able to remind the Marines that even though they don’t have immediate family here, they still have a family because of the Marine Corps.”
The volunteer spouses prepared dishes at home and brought them to the barracks to be served in a buffet-style setting from the second floor lounge. The lounge is a common area used by the Marines and Sailors to watch television, play pool or just socialize.
Stretching the length of the tables were a variety of Thanksgiving favorites including: turkey, dressing, macaroni and cheese, mixed vegetables, corn bread, lumpia, rice, corn, rolls, chicken wings, stuffing, broccoli casserole and an assortment of desserts.
“All the food that they brought over makes me feel close to the warmth and comfort of home,” said Pfc. Edison Ramosgoubert, a water purification specialist with CLB-31 and a native of Long Island N.Y. “This wasn’t food from the chow hall or just something we threw in our microwave, this was a meal brought from their homes, cooked in a oven. There is nothing like a Thanksgiving, home-cooked meal.”
After a prayer from the unit chaplain and a short greeting from CLB-31 commanding officer, Lt. Col. Omar J. Randall, the Marines were allowed to “dig in.” Dozens of Marines stood in a line that stretched down the length of the barracks hallway for their chance at the Taste of Home buffet.
The Taste of Home is a quarterly event where the spouses get together and cook meals for the Marines of CLB-31 that live in the barracks. Another event will be held for the Christmas holiday in December, where the Marines and Sailors who do not fly home can still enjoy the flavors of the holiday.
“Helping these Marines out during holidays is the least we can do,” said Gonzalez. “They are always deploying out to sea and away from Okinawa and are away from home for years at a time.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.