By Cpl. Nana Dannsa-Apiah, Marine Forces Reserve
CLEVELAND – After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States began its greatest mobilization of troops the nation had ever seen. Trains began delivering multitudes of servicemembers across the country to various military bases.
Feeding the men and women en route became a logistical nightmare for the military, which did not have enough dining cars to feed them and could not afford the time to allow them to stop and eat at restaurants.
The problem gave way to trackside canteens – groups of volunteers who provided meals to servicemembers as the troop trains stopped in their cities. Communities offered sandwiches, fruit, drinks and candy bars as a gesture of support to their fellow countrymen and women preparing to defend their freedom.
When Rabbi Jonathan I. Krainess visited the Dennison Train Depot in Ohio and heard the story of the trackside canteens and it moved him to continue Ohio’s legacy of supporting troops.
“Their example of support to those in the service was both an inspiration and motivation for me,” he said.
Krainess saw his opportunity to act during Marine Week Cleveland 2012, a week where the Marines visited Cleveland to celebrate their country, community and Corps.
Krainess and a client saw two Marines in uniform walking in their direction a little before noon on June 11. They greeted the Marines and thanked them for their service.
“We know that freedom and democracy are only achieved through the willingness of our fellow countrymen and women to give their lives for our country,” he said.
Krainess then proceeded to Public Square, where he saw Marines standing near an armored truck on a static display. He asked one of them how lunch was being provided and they replied that they were receiving an allowance to purchase food.
Krainess explained to the Marine, that as a guest in his city, he would provide lunch for him.
“He came by asking if the Marines had enough food and if they were hungry,” said Sgt. Daniel P. Grajeda, a platoon sergeant with Headquarters and Service Company, 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion. 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve. “He was very proactive about taking care of us.”
He asked how many Marines were posted at Public Square and learned there were 50 Marines to feed, unaware that there were dozens of other Marines posted throughout the city.
“I immediately left for home, called the local kosher bagel store and asked the manager if he could prepare lunch for 50 Marines,” said Krainess.
With the assistance of his secretary and his 16-year-old son, the team headed back to Public Square with lunch for the troops. They parked then unloaded the sandwiches at the standing United Service Organization booth downtown.
The team began handing the food to Marines, greeting each Marine with personal thanks.
The Marines were appreciative and respectful for the provided lunch.
“I have never been to a place where there was so much hospitality and praise,” said Grajeda.
More Marines were showing up than there were kosher bagel sandwiches. Krainess realized this and called his neighbor to ask if he could bring more food for the Marines. He then called the bagel shop again and ordered additional bagels and 100 pastries.
The Marines continually asked Krainess why he was providing food and drinks to them.
“Freedom is not to be taken for granted and that it is due to (your) service and dedication to the United States of America that I can show my appreciation and gratitude,” he responded.
Krainess’ wife and other children joined the team after school. They spent the afternoon talking to the Marines and asking them about their experiences.
“The best part of the day was talking to the Marines themselves, learning and listening about their own lives and experiences,” said Krainess. “All the weaponry and technology are useless without the people in uniform.”
Krainess hoped that his gesture of support would inspire others to continue the Ohio legacy of military support, whether it is through a trackside canteen, kosher bagels, or free entertainment. To the Marines, the Krainess’ hospitality solidified their experience in Cleveland.
“When someone can take care of Marines like that, it’s definitely a big morale booster,” said Lance Cpl. William Klier, a crewman with H & S Co., 4th AA Bn. “It meant a lot and it really shows that we are appreciated.”