3,300 soldiers go through Charlotte Douglas to fly home for the holidays

Charlotte played the gateway to Christmas celebrations for hundreds of our country’s bravest. Soldiers left basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina to fly out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport to go home for the holidays.

Many had no way of knowing the support that waited for them when they arrived Wednesday morning. They lined up for one final formation and said goodbye to their drill sergeant for the next two weeks.

“Merry Christmas and thank you for your service,” said one American Airlines employee.

Employees and volunteers with the USO of North Carolina were scattered throughout the airport to make sure soldiers had what they need. They showered them with support, food and the spirit of the season.

“Without the support of our neighbors we wouldn’t be able to take care of our young men and women,” said John Falkenbury with USO of North Carolina.

“God bless you, thank you. We appreciate you,” said Arlene who volunteers with the non-profit.

“The support has been overwhelming. They said go to the USO but we didn’t imagine this,” said Private Jordan Jones who was traveling to Austin.

“I didn’t even think people would have so much support for us in training as we are trying to become soldiers,” said Private Harold Britton who was traveling to Wisconsin.

“I’ve always been the one to thank and being thanked, well it’s a proud moment,” said Private Alicia Johnson who was traveling to Nebraska. At 32, she joined the Army fulfilling a dream. She hasn’t seen her kids in eight weeks.

Santa even stopped by to wish the soldiers a Merry Christmas and thank them for their service.

Several soldiers planned to surprise their loved ones while others have been counting down the days until they are reunited.

They report back for duty and drills in two weeks.