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By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

CAMP PENDLETON -(CA)- About 800 Marines from the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion gathered in front of Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre Community Center to take in the smells of an early Thanksgiving dinner provided by San Clemente Presbyterian Church on Friday.

Peter Carissimo, the church’s head volunteer chef for the event, asked a Marine sergeant waiting in line if it smelled good, kiddingly telling the Marine it was all from Pendleton’s mess hall.

Article Tab: friday-wife-nadica-isaac
Marine Cpl. Isaac Rivera, with his wife, Nadica, and daughter Isabella Marie, work their way through the Thanksgiving chow line Friday afternoon.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
“Oh, no it isn’t, sir,” the sergeant said. “I work in the mess and it for sure didn’t come out of there.”

San Clemente Presbyterian holds several events every year for its “adopted: Marine unit, but Carissimo said the Thanksgiving meal is by far the most complicated. It brings together about 300 volunteers from all over south Orange County to prepare 100 turkeys, 600 pounds of stuffing and yams and 50 gallons of gravy. Even San Clemente’s Fisherman’s seafood restaurant helped out this year, cooking 28 turkeys in its kitchen.

SEE A SLIDE SHOW HERE.

Volunteers were especially eager to serve this year, knowing that in the coming week, at least one segment of 44 Marines will deploy to Afghanistan.

For Friday’s event, about 40 people served the meal. The youngest volunteer, 5-year-old Abigail Gratteau, helped place tablecloths on long tables set up by Marines earlier in the day.

Maj. Tony Mitchell, executive officer of 1st CEB, spoke to the assembled Marines, counting the things he is most thankful for. But he added some sad news and words of caution – earlier in the morning, a Marine had died in a motorcycle accident on I-5 just outside the Basilone entrance to the base.

“Remember to be thankful for everyone, and especially now with this reminder,” Mitchell said. “There are some pretty sad Marines somewhere on this base right now.”

Event organizer Chuck Herpick, a Navy veteran, thanked the Marines for their service. Then came Carissimo, known by 1st CEB members for his hand in a recent spaghetti dinner.

“We enjoy doing what we do for all of you because we know and won’t forget what you all do for us and protecting our country,” Carissimo said.

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