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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Carol Bowden, mother of three adult sons and a daughter, is accustomed to large family holiday gatherings. In fact, she yearns for such get-togethers.

“We do have a large family and unfortunately they’re all back in the States,” Bowden said.

But she’ll be far from lonely Thanksgiving Day.

She and her husband, Jim Bowden, a teacher at Jack N. Darby Elementary School, invited 15 to 20 people to their home for the Thursday feast, many through the Adopt-a-Sailor Plus program.

The base Religious Ministries department matches single or unaccompanied sailors to families willing to have the servicemembers spend holidays and other occasions with them in traditional family settings.

“This is quite a valuable program,” said Cmdr. Bernard Wang, Sasebo’s chief staff officer. “It’s tough being overseas and can be even tougher being overseas and single, away from family.”

In addition to the Bowden family, many others open their homes and holiday tables to single sailors from ship and shore commands.

“These sailors need to be with friends, just like we need to make Thanksgiving more like the holiday we are accustomed to,” Carol Bowden said. “This way, it won’t be so sad for us in missing our own family.”

The Navy has sponsored Adopt-a-Sailor holiday programs for more than a decade, but in May 2004, Cmdr. Harvey Ranard, Sasebo’s command chaplain, announced plans for a new program to extend the family association to other times throughout the year: Adopt-a-Sailor Plus.

“It’s nice to share that family feeling holidays seem to beckon,” said Ranard, who plans to host about 15 at his home on Thanksgiving. But with forward-deployed sailors often under way for months at a time, meeting the desires of “single sailors for a family-like relationship” throughout the year also is important, he said.

This year’s effort to match willing families and single sailors, the chaplain said, is going far better than anticipated.

“Usually, the various commands recommend sailors and we find ‘adoptive’ families for them,” Ranard said. “But for some reason, this year sailors are sort of making self-referrals, asking on their own to be placed with a family.”

As of Friday, 16 families were registered as willing to adopt one or more sailors.

“That’s twice the number we had at the same time last year,” the chaplain said.

“With this many families, it’s possible we could accommodate 54 sailors, but it’s still early,” he added. “We’ll pick up even more families as we get closer to Christmas.”

Call the Religious Ministries department at DSN 252-3380 for more information.

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