CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte Douglas Airport was invaded Thursday Morning by 2000 happy troops from Fort Jackson, which is just outside of Columbia, S.C.
They got the best possible mission: go home for the holidays.
"Well I've been in boot for almost four weeks now, and it means a lot now to get home for Christmas time," said Private Garth Braithwaite.
Of course no homecoming through Charlotte would be complete without a send off from the North Carolina U.S.O.
For the past seven years the organization has put on a breakfast send-off giving the troop’s biscuits, pastries, and coffee as sort of a welcome back to the world after all the T.L.C. given by their drill sergeants.
"It’s very strange, I have to say. I'm so used to being screamed at; I have to run with a 50-pound pack on, do push- up’s. If I do something wrong, people come up and say ‘thank you’, I don't know what to say," said Pvt. Marlyn Melo.
It takes a lot of volunteers to make this kind of event happen; one of the people who came to say thank you was Carolina Panther offensive lineman Geoff Handgartner.
"I love to see these guys go home, spread the holiday cheer, and give them the best wishes and thank them for what they do, ‘cause you can never thank these guys enough," he said.
Some of the soldiers have just finished boot; others, like Braithwaite, have only done four weeks, so he’s got to finish up after the holiday. That’s going to call for some extraordinary discipline once he gets home to Long Island, New York.
"No turkey, everything portioned, no cake-less sugars; everywhere we go there is a drill sergeant there," he joked.
The Charlotte Chorale raised the money for this event. Last year they gave out 1400 biscuits; this year it was 2000.