Recruits Enjoy Thanksgiving Away From Home

By Alex Perez
|  Thursday, Nov 25, 2010  |  Updated 8:30 PM CDT
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Recruits Enjoy Thanksgiving Away From Home

U.S. Navy Seaman Robert Torralva said being separated from his 2-year-old daughther Piper made this Thanksgiving difficult.

"My daughter is a complete, total daddy's girl," Torralva, who's stationed at Great Lakes Naval Base, said. "I used to wake every morning with my daughter right there."

This year Piper is celebrating at home in Oregon with her mom, and Torralva's wife, Jessie.

Torralva and 39 other Navy recruits from around the country -- each of them training at the Naval Academy in North Chicago -- came to the Good Shepherd Christian Assembly Church in an effort to their Thanksgiving Day brighter in spite of their families' distance.

They arrived at the Northwest side church early this morning, and heard a special prayer service to start. The troop then enjoyed a brief theatrical performance before digging in to a Thanksgiving feast, complete with all the trimmings. The Navy recruits also snapped a group picture that will be sent with a special message to their families in their home states.

The small nicety made the recruits feel special.

"It makes us feel extra thankful [someone] took the time to give us that," says Seaman Apprentice Litaly Pugh, of Florida.

Parishioner Linda Cavanaugh conceived the idea of hosting the sailors and convinced her congregation to help. Her son PFC. Jason Cavanaugh is stationed in Afghanistan.

"It's a very hard thing for a mother to know her son is over there and not know if he's going to come home again," Cavanaugh explained.

Earlier this month, her son's best friend and battle buddy PFC. Andrew Meari from Plainfield, was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. Cavanaugh says Meari's death only forced her to work harder on making the dinner a success. We have to "hold each other up," she says, "extend our hand further, all we have is each other."

That small sign of support and sacrifice is what Torralva says gives him patience and makes him grateful this Thanksgiving, even if he can't be right next to his daughter Piper.

"Be supportive of what you have, you never know when it may be gone."

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