MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- Thanksgiving Day usually evokes images of family gatherings, bountiful feasts and football. However, for those Marines and sailors who will be on duty that day or don’t have plans to travel home, the idea of holiday festivities may seem out of reach.
The Single Marine Program is changing that by providing an alternate place to retreat. From 12:30 to 5:30 p.m., Nov. 28, military members can enjoy a free savory Thanksgiving meal, catered by The Clubs at Quantico, fellowship and watch a game of football. To-go plates will also be available for those who are on duty.
Betty Mayfield, who has been the event’s program coordinator for the past five years, said their goal is to create a “home-like” experience. Part of that effort includes providing typical holiday fare including roasted turkey, ham, rolls with butter and pumpkin pie among many other items. Also with the SMP House’s cozy design of plush recliners, hardwood floors and a flat screen television, Mayfield said it’s not hard for service members to unwind. It’s a small gesture, but one that was essential for base leaders, even in a cash-strapped environment.
“When the government shutdown and we were having furloughs, we didn’t know if it was possible to have a holiday meal [this year],” Mayfield said. “However, it was very important to the command on base to support this event because they want Marines and sailors to know that they are remembered [during the holidays] and that there is a place where they can get that ‘home’ feel.”
Although the Mess Hall at Quantico provides a meal as well, Sgt. Maj. Laura Brown, the base sergeant major said, the SMP’s unique setting offers an ideal “family” experience during the holidays, which is particularly important for Marines who are new to the base.
"The Marine Corps has always provided a meal at the chow hall, but for many single Marines, this may be their first duty station and first time away from home,” Brown said. “Sitting at the Single Marine Program House and sharing a meal in a relaxed atmosphere, [while] watching football games in a recliner and eating seconds is all part of making holiday memories."
With the event averaging around 200 participants each year, Mayfield said it has become a favorite among military members. She said they enjoy coming for the food, but also because of the close-knit relationship that has been built among them.
“I consider the single Marines and sailors my family and many of them see me as ‘mom,’” Mayfield said.
Mayfield has worked this event every Thanksgiving since it began in 2007. Her husband and three daughters, one who is a Marine, usually tag along to volunteer.
The SMP will also provide a holiday dinner on Christmas Eve. For information on all of their events, call 703-432-0363.