CAPE MAY, N.J. – Coast Guard Training Center Cape May and the American Red Cross will place more than 475 Coast Guard recruits with more than 120 local-host families for Thanksgiving as part of Operation Fireside Thursday, Nov. 22 at 9 a.m.
Operation Fireside has placed recruits with South Jersey families during the holiday season since 1981. It allows the recruits to celebrate the holiday with a host family while they’re separated from their loved ones during the rigorous basic training program.
“Thank you to the Coast Guard Community and particularly our Operation Fireside families," said Captain Owen Gibbons, commanding officer of the Training Center. "More than 120 families will come to the training center and take more than 475 recruits home and give them a warm Thanksgiving meal, a break from the rigors of recruit training and most importantly, introducing them to the respect and affection the American public has for its service members.”
Operation Fireside has been coordinated annually by the American Red Cross Southern Shore Chapter in Cape May Court House, N.J., since the program started more than three decades ago. The Red Cross solicits and tracks volunteers and host families, while Training Center Cape May pairs each recruit with a family Thanksgiving Day.
The families and the recruits will meet at the Training Center gym, and the recruits will be with the families until 8 p.m. While the recruits are off base, they will be allowed to eat as much as they want, call home, and relax before returning to training again that same evening.
Training Center Cape May is the Coast Guard’s only enlisted basic training program, and more than 80 percent of the Service’s workforce receive basic instruction here to become Coast Guardsmen