BURGAW, N.C. (WECT) - Volunteers made sure the men and women who fight for our freedoms had a Thanksgiving meal and plenty of friends to share it with Thursday.
Bill O’Brien spent 13 years in the military, and knows all too well what it feels like to be alone on a holiday.
O’Brien and his family have hosted Operation Thanksgiving Blessing for six years now, to make sure that doesn’t happen for local marines, military families, or community members .
When O’Brien left active duty, he wanted to do something to address the growing suicide rate in the military.
So he started Veteran Owned Veteran Grown, which teaches veterans with PTSD how to farm as a way of coping.
“We’ve been through hell and high water, literally,” said O’Brien.
Hurricane Florence flooded his home back in 2018. .
American flags hang majestically outside of what’s left, simply a shell of the house washed away in the storm.
“No matter how bad the year has been you always have something you can be thankful for,” O’Brien said.
That may be hard to fathom for a family still living in a camper more than a year after the hurricane.
But for O’Briens, it is simply the truth. And it has not stopped them from hosting a Thanksgiving feast to honor America’s best and bravest.
“This all started with my wife who had a bunch of girls at her office who couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving because their husbands were deployed. So that first year, six years ago, we had about 60 people out year and we just decided it was such a huge blessing that we wanted to keep doing it and it has grown and grown," O’Brien said.
This year, 300 active duty marines, veterans, and military families gathered at the O’Brien family farm for a place to call home for the holidays.
“I did 13 years in the military and I know what it’s like to be away from home from for the holidays and sitting in the barracks alone is just not the place to be at these times of year and a lot of these young Marines, it’s their first time away from home for a big event like this so we just want to make them feel like they are home,” he said.
“When we came off the bus and everybody was clapping for us, it was very wholesome, I never expected that. I’m here with my sisters from the Marine Corps, my brothers from the Marine Corps, and other veterans who know what it feels like. It’s amazing. It makes me feel like I’m kind of back home,” said Lance Cpl. Kenia Ceballos.