Families give Marines home away from home on Thanksgiving

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Families around the Port City are making this Thanksgiving special for some people who cannot be home for it.

“You miss them. I miss my parents. This helped a lot. Being here in a home,” said 19-year-old Marine Ian Cunningham.

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A time for family, friends and being together for the holidays. But Cunningham is far from home this Thanksgiving.

“It’s better than being in camp.”

More than 100 Camp Lejeune Marines like Ian were welcomed into a home away from home this year. A program started by Port City Java’s CEO eight years ago.

This year, 53 families from across the Cape Fear invited Marines in with open arms.

“One of the reasons we’re doing it of course, is to give back. These are young guys that are going into the Marines and they’re giving up something for us. So this is one small way that we can repay them for their sacrifice,” said Dennis Collette, who has been hosting marines with his wife for several years.

Collette’s grandchildren could not be here this year, so for him, these young men are like his own.

“And as I said to them, ‘I’ll give you the first drink. But after that, you’re on your own. You have to help yourself because that’s what you would be doing at home,'” said Collette.

A day to unwind and laugh.

“It felt weird to put on my civilian clothes again,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham says Marine life is the new normal. Today was special.

“Coming back to this, it’s like taking a break. It’s almost not being normal. It’s being on vacation,” said Cunningham.

A well-deserved vacation on a day to give thanks.

Event coordinators say the number of families that took in a Marine this year went down because of Hurricane Florence.

If you would like to get involved, you can email portcityjava.com.