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More Than 45,000 Soldiers Returning Home for the Holidays

(Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)

The holidays are about family, and what’s better than more than 45,000 soldiers coming home this week.

Servicemen and women will return to 20 different locations nationwide for two weeks to see their families after months of work.

Fox News reported that more than 12,000 soldiers would come home at one Georgia military base this week. Families started waiting with their cars around Fort Benning in Columbus early Friday morning. Many soldiers recently finished up 22 weeks of training.

Soldiers Started Journey Home Friday Morning

Families from Mississippi and even as far away from the Omaha, Neb. area came to the Atlanta airport.

Destiny Stovall came from Biloxi to pick up her husband, Private Aaron Stovall. She “couldn’t wait to see him” and made the 5-hour drive to Fort Benning, knowing how Atlanta traffic is from her childhood experiences.

One family drove over 1,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa. Laurel Hiers went to Atlanta to pick up her husband, Private Dayton Hiers. But she had some help driving as the man’s mother came along. Tammy Ellis said the family reunion was “absolutely wonderful, priceless, the best gift ever.”

While some families couldn’t wait, thousands of soldiers took early morning buses from Fort Benning en route for the nation’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“Of the 45,000 soldiers, Atlanta is the biggest hub, and so most [soldiers] will be departing through here,” says Brig. Gen. John D. Kline. 

Kline told Fox News that 3,500 Fort Benning soldiers were picked up by car Thursday, and more than 8,000 flew home on Friday. Many more will leave Atlanta by way of Augusta’s Fort Gordon.

In Texas, KSAT reported that more than 2,300 soldiers in San Antonio left for their holiday time starting Friday. The TV station reported that more than 1,200 soldiers left Saturday morning for some holiday hometime.

Family Life Important For Nation’s Protectors

This time off will help many soldiers “recharge and reset” their lives.

Drill Sergeant David Latsha said the time away will help men and women “get their minds” right to “come back and complete the training.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Derrick Garner​​​ told Fox News that training has changed over the past 25 years since joining the US Army. Now Garner leads the drill sergeants and trainees. 

The Sergeant Major related that in 1996, soldiers completed 13 or 14 weeks of training. Now, that’s jumped to 22 weeks. He said with all the time these service members are away, “it’s extremely important to get our troopers back home.” 

Garner related that these soldiers find the purpose for training and serving their country by spending time with their families. He often brings those reasons up with them after they return to base.