By Cleve Bryan, Pat Loeb
CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) – An annual Thanksgiving dinner for active military and veterans in the region got a new home this year — aboard the Battleship New Jersey, on Camden’s waterfront.
An honor guard of flag-waving bikers and music by mummers greeted combined forces from McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and Dover Air Force Base, as they boarded the ship for a traditional meal. Warm “thank you’s” and a trays of hot food welcomed former and current military members
“I was rather impressed with the number of people they had here and the people that support us,” says U-S Army Reserves specialist Asa Sanders, whose wife and child are back in Texas.
Many of the homeless veterans in attendance were organized by the Volunteers for America homeless shelter.
“It was just humbling coming up that gang plank today and people thanking you. I was getting all choked up because nobody ever did that,” says Navy veteran Leonard Moore, who knows how difficult it can be holding down a job with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Petty officer Eric Parks was spending his third Thanksgiving deployed, and welcomed the chance to break bread with his comrades:
“The family that I miss at home, the one that cares for me back there, I’ve still got my family here, I’ve got my brethren here, I’ve got marines, sailors, soldiers here that are part of my immediate family here so, yeah, you miss the home life, but you also have your military life and I really appreciate it, I do,” he said.
Brian Farrell was spending his last Thanksgiving away from home:
“I’m demobilizing. This is my fourth combat tour and I’m getting ready to go home.”
The annual meal is an outpouring of love, according to organizer Marshall Spevak:
“People hear about it, they just want to come out and be thankful and help serve those who’ve served us,” he said.
The Spevak Family, which has been throwing the event for more than a decade, joined forces with numerous sponsors, including Camden County Veterans Affairs and the Camden Board of Chosen Freeholders.
“We recognize the courage, the bravery – what you do for us to make us the greatest country in the world,” says NJ Senate President Steven Sweeney, who was among the dignitaries in attendance.