Operation Fireside gives recruits a family - NBC40.net

Operation Fireside gives recruits a family

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CAPE MAY -

While many are home with their family for Christmas, many men and women of our military will not have the opportunity to go home.

Thanks to Operation Fireside, recruits at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May will have the chance to spend Christmas with an adoptive family for the day.

"Something like this is just phenomenal. I got to imagine it just totally re-juices their batteries, gets them excited and also the thing that we learn is that the recruits really feel like they're a part of something larger than themselves, when families welcome them in, they realize the community really values what the U.S. military does," said Coast Guard Training Center commanding officer, Captain William Kelly.

Officials say in the 31st year of the program, over 200 recruits will spend Christmas with over 100 families.

The Orlando family of Wildwood Crest has been participating in the program for the last 12 years and love the experience as much as the recruits they take in.

"They're really so much fun, they're thrilled to be out. The group we have today, they're in their fifth week and it's the first time they're off the base since they came to Cape May," said Operation Fireside participant Hilda Orlando.

"Its something I'm going to remember the rest of my life, it's a nice change from what we're accustomed to doing and we're really thankful for the family and making us feel at home," said recruit Gabriel White from El Paso, Texas.

The four recruits at the Orlando house had the opportunity to enjoy a Christmas meal and make phone calls to loved ones.

Although their families may be on the other side of the country, for the recruits and the Orlando's, sharing the holiday helps to create a long lasting relationship.

"Its really an honor, we've been doing it for 12 years and our son is career Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard is family," said Joe Orlando, an Operation Fireside participant.

"People here are just phenomenal, they take us in and they say that the Coast Guard is family and I think that everyone around us is family. Its awesome," said recruit Ashlyn Nevius from Oceanside, California.

This is the second opportunity for recruits to spend a holiday with local families as Operation Fireside also runs during Thanksgiving.

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