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Connecting soldiers with families for Thanksgiving

Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05

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Special to The Prospector

Ft. Bliss' Adopt-A-Soldier program asks volunteers to share their homes with a soldier for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Spending Thanksgiving away from home is difficult for soldiers in training. Many feel homesick and long for a home-cooked meal and a seat at a dinner table.

For more than 30 years, Fort Bliss' Adopt-A-Soldier program has helped local families open their homes to soldiers who are away during Thanksgiving.

Raymond Ascencio, 28, enlisted in the Army two years ago. He was sent to Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., for Advanced Individual Training. Thanksgiving fell during the six weeks he was there and he signed up for the Adopt-A-Soldier program because he didn't know anyone. He was adopted by a family with the same last name.

"Most of the soldiers that sign up are young and right out of high school. I'm sure many of them miss their families." -Sgt. Joseph Stevens Ft. Bliss Adopt-A-Soldier program

"I guess they figured it would feel more personal since Ascencio isn't a very common last name and we spent most of our time talking about where we came from, to see if we were somehow related," Ascencio said.

His mother, Maria Ascencio, said she hated the idea of him spending Thanksgiving alone and was pleased someone made sure he didn't sit in the barracks all day and gave him a good meal.

"When Raymond was in AIT, someone did this for him at Thanksgiving," Maria said. "He was so grateful and so am I."

Sgt. Joseph Stephens collects information from volunteers and helps organize the Adopt-A-Soldier program at Fort Bliss. Last year 1,000 soldiers were adopted and he hopes the same number of soldiers will get to spend Thanksgiving with a family this year.

"Most of the soldiers that sign up are young and right out of high school," Stephens said. "I'm sure many of them miss their families."

Astrid Magallon, senior art major, said her 21-year-old younger brother, Sal Magallon, is training in Savannah, Ga. and will be away for Thanksgiving. She hopes someone will offer him their home.

"I know he wants to be with us this year, but it just isn't possible," Magallon said. "I guess we will be spending most of the day talking on the phone."

To host a soldier for Thanksgiving, call 568-6511 or 568-1744 Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

The deadline to sign up is Monday, Nov. 19. On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, soldiers may be picked up between 9-9:30 a.m. at Stout Gymnasium, building 2930 at Fort Bliss.

Sonai Perez may be reached at prospector@utep.edu.

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