• Thousands of soldiers head home for holidays from Charlotte airport


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - About 4,000 soldiers flew out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport Monday to go home for the holidays.

    The event was organized by the United Service Organization of North Carolina -- a group that connects troops to their families year-round.

    "We've been at war for 16 plus years. These are all volunteers. They represent the less than 1 percent of our nation that is guarding our freedoms," said John Falkenbery, president of USO of North Carolina.

    The soldiers were bused to the airport Monday morning from Fort Jackson in South Carolina so they could catch connecting flights home.           

    Volunteers greeted them with gifts, food and special guests.                  

    Channel 9 spoke with one soldier who said he can’t wait to get home to his family in Wisconsin.

    “Every year, my family holds a Christmas party, so I'm looking forward to going home and spending some time with my extended family,” Pvt. Seth Akavickas said.

    The soldiers will return to Fort Jackson on Jan. 2.

    “Two weeks from now, they'll all come back and we'll complete the mission of training them,” Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson said. “And they'll earn the right to be called soldiers, and we'll all be better for it.”

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