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McDowell family and marines
The McDowell family sits down with Joseph Couillard and Colin Woodhead to enjoy a Thanksgiving Dinner together on November 11, 2017. (Photo: Basil John/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Marines from Camp Geiger came to Hoggard High School after volunteering for a very special Thanksgiving celebration: Marinesgiving.

“They told us after, that we were going to go out and have thanksgiving with families who wanted to have a service member with them. And what’s crazy is, I’m one of those,” PFC Joseph Couillard said.

This is the seventh year Port City Java organized this event. They chartered three buses, bringing more than 150 Marines to Wilmington. Couillard and PFC Colin Woodhead are two of the Marines. They got to spend their Thanksgiving with the McDowell family.

“Being in the military, we’re away a lot. We’ve never met these people before but they welcome us in. They treat us like one of their own,” Couillard said.

This family full of military prepared a warm and happy welcome for the Marines.

“Especially when you first go into training in the military and you come out of it, it’s completely different putting on civilian clothes again. You know, they’re away from their families. We wanted to really try and be that surrogate family for them during the holidays,” Terry McDowell, a host, said.

Couillard and Woodhead say this experience brings on another perspective they are grateful for.

“There’s someone overseas, probably eating one of those MRE’s. Who might not have their phone on them because that’s not supposed to. I would say that they are not able to contact their family on Thanksgiving. I was able to contact my family. Even though I’m not home, I’m home with another family,” Woodhead said.

These Marines both agree. As much as they love the food, the McDowell’s have treated them like their own children, making the whole experience life-changing.

“They’re just not feeding us. They’re making us part of their family for the day. So, I just can’t explain it. It’s just awesome,” Woodhead said.

The McDowell family encourages other in the area to help host Marines to bring the special occasion of Thanksgiving to these heroes away from home.

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