Holiday Dinners Set Up for Sailors Go to Waste

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Byline: Mick Zawislak and Jamie Sotonoff Daily Herald Staff Writers

Thanksgiving shows of appreciation for sailors went awry Thursday, as dinners at banquet halls and other locales went cold and uneaten because the invited guests didn't come.

Dozens of buses left Naval Station Great Lakes empty, and others were canceled by organizers of various events intended to give sailors a meal and thanks for their efforts.

More than 400 sailors and recruits from the Great Lakes Naval Station near North Chicago failed to show up to Thanksgiving dinners organized in their honor across the suburbs.

Volunteers who planned these dinners as a way to show support for American service men and women were left disappointed, angry and loaded with leftovers.

According to the sailors and recruits, about half of the 3,100 sailors normally on base were shipped out to Florida before Thanksgiving on standing orders that had been delayed because of hurricanes.

Hundreds of recruits in training were said to be confined to the base near North Chicago on a three-day "rack pass" after having wisdom teeth pulled. Others have been feeling sick lately, they also said.

A U.S. Navy petty officer first class, who declined to give his name, said he took dozens of calls Thursday morning from people who were yelling, and in one case, crying, because they put so much effort and money into their Thanksgiving dinner only to learn at the last minute that the sailors weren't going to show up.

"I can understand why they're angry," the officer said. "It makes us look bad, but there really isn't anything we can do about it. …