Video by Joseph Andrew Lee

ATLANTA–Each December, airports around the nation are swarmed by troops heading home from basic training, released from their drill sergeants for a few weeks to see their families for the holidays. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport sees close to 10,000 troops during this holiday exodus, and each of them is greeted and cared for by USO of Georgia volunteers.

Doug Fuentes, Community Banking President with Wells Fargo, and his team have volunteered with the USO for Operation Holiday Block Leave each of the past four years.

“We have a group of volunteers really working around the clock,” said Fuentes, who greeted troops as they arrived at the airport at 2:30 a.m Friday. “As they come through, they definitely look anxious to go home, but it’s neat to be able to see and connect with them for just a second and say ‘Thank you’ and let them know how much we appreciate their service.”

This year, to assist with the holiday rush, the USO partnered with Coca-Cola and Walmart to bring extra holiday cheer to troops who are on their way home, with a special visit from Santa and his elves. Coca-Cola, NOS Energy Drink and Walmart also gave $10,000 donations to 10 USO airport centers, which will help the USO support troops and their loved ones this holiday season.