Marines enjoy Thanksgiving feast served by community members in San Clemente

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (KABC) -- Dozens of Marines arrived at H.H. Cotton's restaurant in San Clemente for a feast they'll never forget. For most of them, it's their first Thanksgiving away from home.

"It's pretty hard being away from home," said Logan Barnett, a Marine from Oklahoma. "The longest I've been away from home is like a week."

"Miss my family a little bit, but it's nice being here with the brotherhood," said Jared Balter, who hails from Utah.

For the past four years, the restaurant, a local flag football team, and volunteers have helped make sure new Marines have a nice warm meal.

"Camp Pendleton is so close to us. We have a huge Marine presence in town, so we wanted to invite them up," said restaurant co-owner Denise Mears.

"Thinking in terms of my own kids, it makes our thanksgiving," said co-owner Maureen Aitken. "We would not leave for Thanksgiving just so we could be here and do this. And it means a lot to me how the community all comes together, which is very symbolic of San Clemente."

"Our chef came in at 5:30 this morning to start cooking. Everyone that you see here is volunteering," Mears said.

It's a community embracing young marines who've left their families to serve and start a brotherhood.

"Especially the Marine Corps. We kind of come together whenever we're feeling down and this kind of lightens us up, you know being away from family and stuff, " said Damion Bergakis of Northern California.

"Like everybody says, it's a brotherhood around here," Barnett said. "You make some real friends and it makes it easier."

Their message to fellow Americans who express their gratitude like this?

"We would do anything to give back to you guys as well. That's why we volunteered. That's why we signed up, cause we wanna give back to you guys cause you do so much for us as well," said Nigel Hill of Illinois.

"The flag football team that donated and everyone helping out, it's awesome to see that they opened up on this Thanksgiving day just for us, it's awesome to see," said Balter.

Swag bags and a raffle were also made possible thanks to donations from local organizations as well as a couple thousand dollars from people in the community.
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