They can't go home for turkey, so the Gulf Coast brings the holidays to sailors and airmen

By MARY PEREZ | The Sun Herald | Published: November 26, 2020

(Tribune News Service) — They're affectionately called "single sailors," and they and other troops at the Seabee Base won't be going home for mom's pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving.

Instead, the USO is hosting Thanksgiving dinner Thursday at the Naval Battalion Construction Center in Gulfport.

"Every year, thousands of service men and women are separated from their families for the holidays," said Felice Kelly Gillum, executive director of USO Gulf Coast.

Every year, USO Gulf Coast helps make the holidays brighter on base, and this year the organization partnered with Scarlet Pearl Casino in D'Iberville, which is preparing the desserts.

Two thousand airmen at Keesler are not going to be able to go home for the holidays, Gillum said. "We'll be taking care of them for two weeks," she said.

They've scheduled a variety of activities for the troops and their families. They'll be ice skating at the Coast Coliseum, bouncing around on a day of inflatables and keeping fit with sports.

Gillum said she has lots of notes from grateful military members.

"The USO and their staff is amazing," said Corey Crockett, who sent a thank-you after experiencing the generosity of the USO and the donors on the Coast. "They gave me and my family an opportunity of a lifetime and we will never forget it. Their generosity speaks volumes for what they do to help military members."

Typically the USO calls local businesses to contribute Thanksgiving desserts for the troops, Gillum said. "Scarlet Pearl is providing all the desserts this year," she said.

Chef Wendy Bosarge and her staff at the Scarlet Pearl bakery were turning out pecan, pumpkin and lemon pies, cheesecake, German chocolate and coconut cakes and dozens of cookies Tuesday and Wednesday.

They were the first and last business Gillum said she contacted for Thanksgiving. That will leave more businesses and people to call for Christmas donations, she said.

"Throughout this holiday season the USO will be assisting thousands of service members on local military installations that are unable to travel home for the holidays due to COVID-19," she said. "It will take the effort of the entire community to make the holidays memorable for our military."

The USO is asking those who want to help keep morale up and make the holidays better for these troops to send cash donations to pay for the entertainment and for local businesses to help provide meals for those days.

Donations are tax deductible for cash and in-kind donations. Checks should be made to USO Gulf Coast and mailed to: 14035 Q Airport RoadGulfport MS, 39503. For information contact Gillum at usogulfcoast@uso.org or call her at 228-363-4449

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