Local Marines open doors for homeless vets on Thanksgiving

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ELKHART, Ind. --- Thanksgiving is a day to enjoy time with family and some great food but for some local veterans, they don't have that option. Some homeless veterans from Miller's Vets had the opportunity to experience Thanksgiving with a family of a different kind; their extended military family.

"We've all had our Thanksgiving with our families," Paul "Goose" Patillo, Squad Leader of Marine Riders of Michiana said. "Every year, it's the same thing. Well, we'd like to start taking care of the veterans on Thanksgiving Day to have the full effect of Thanksgiving."

Patillo is a member of Marine Riders of Michiana, a local motorcycle club of marines. Patillo says many times people hold dinners for veterans down on their luck a week or two after Thanksgiving but it loses its luster. So he wanted to hold something day of to give them the full effect of the holiday.

For the veterans in attendance, they're familiar with missing holidays like Thanksgiving while serving overseas. So they depend on each other as family to enjoy Thanksgiving.

"A lot of us when we were in the service, a lot of us couldn't go home, couldn't afford to go home or couldn't make a drive," Castillo said. "We all got together and that was Thanksgiving. It was as good as being with family without being with your family."

"It gives them a good feeling that people care," Terry "Papa T" Large, a member of the Marine Riders of Michiana said. "It gives you a good feeling to help people."

With multiple branches of the military in the same room, it can get heated at times. Military guys tend to be pretty competitive and proud of their particular branch. But on a day like this, they're all brothers in arms.

"It's so great because many of them don't have a family to be with today," Ed Buras with Miller's Vets said. "So you can see the extended family that adopted them."

"It's so heartwarming to be welcomed to a place like this," X'avier Anthony Anderson with Miller's Vets said. "To say, hey, you got no where to go? I got my house."

"There are a lot of us that don't have families in the area," Dan Newman, Honor Guard with Miller's Vets said. "They've kind of adopted us as part of the family."

For the guys in the Marine Riders of Michiana, Veterans of many different wars from Vietnam to today, the day was also beneficial to them.

"It's like being back in the Marine Corps. again," Patillo said. "These guys that can't go home to their families or don't have families to go home to, well they're our family. They will forever be our family no matter what."