As Charlotte Douglas International Airport dealt with the busiest travel day of the holiday season, thousands of soldiers were also passing through the Queen City as they made their way home for the holiday.
Thousands of soldiers from Fort Jackson in South Carolina were at the airport Thursday morning, many having just finished basic training.
“They break you down and build you back up, to be a proper soldier,” Private Jazmin Cameron said.
Dozens of volunteers were on hand to make the trip a little easier -- and tastier.
Channel 9 spoke with soldiers from all over -- Maryland, Idaho, Hawaii -- many of them returning to their families after completing 10 weeks of basic training and having zero contact on the phone or online.
“Sleep in my own bed and see the people that I love,” Private first class Ian McQueen said.
Most of them have been up for 24 hours in order to catch their flights and were greeted with gift bags with items like blankets and snacks to make their flight more comfortable.
“Whatever it is that they’re going home to, we’re trying to make that easier for them,” Jim Whaley from USO North Carolina said.
The soldiers were also treated to a big breakfast, complete with Bojangles and Panera, and a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
“These young people are giving to our country and it’s just a small thing we can do to give back, to show them that we appreciate them,” Santa Claus Fred Miller said.
The airport plans to feed 4,500 soldiers.
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