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Christmas miracle: soldiers fly home for holidays for free

Posted December 23, 2007
Updated November 18, 2008

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— Southwest Airlines picked up the tab to fly 180 soldiers temporarily stationed at Fort Bragg home to Texas for the holidays.

The members of the Texas National Guard were stationed at Fort Bragg and expected to be deployed to Afghanistan before the holidays, said John Lucy, assistant director of the United Service Organization's center at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

When their deployment was delayed, the soldiers were granted a week of holiday leave, and the possibility of being home for Christmas arose. Relatives, however, could not raise enough money for airfare, and coming home was an "all or none" event for the group of soldiers, Lucy said.

Southwest Airlines stepped in and offered to fly the soldiers free of charge from RDU. The USO helped organized the effort, and Southwest dubbed it "Operation Christmas Miracle."

Soldiers began checking in around 6 a.m. Sunday for four flights to Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. The largest group of 110 will travel on a plane Southwest put into service exclusively for them.

The Texas National Guard members must return to Fort Bragg by New Year's Day.


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  • UpwardlyMobile Dec 24, 2007

    Very nice

  • leo-nc Dec 24, 2007

    I haven't liked SouthWest mainly for the lack of customer service and poor airline service I received from them in the past.

    HOWEVER, an airline who does something like this for our troops deserves a second chance. I have nothing but respect for the step that they took here. It's refreshing to see a large corporation (especially an airline) step up and actually do something for our troops. If ANYONE deserves a free flight, it's them.

    Too bad we can't donate airline miles for troops to get free tickets on other airlines. I have close to 650,000 miles sitting in my account. I would gladly donate them all if it were possible.

  • Retired nurse Dec 23, 2007

    Sorry about the last line on my last e-mail, it should read Southwest instead of Southeast. Sorry for the error.

  • Retired nurse Dec 23, 2007

    I think this is one of the nicest things I have heard of in a long time!! There are still some good, decent, caring people in this world!!! Even though this airline is out to make money, they put this aside for the troops who are serving our country so you and I can live in peace! What a wonderful gesture on Southwest Airlines behalf!! Way to Go Southeast!!!

  • militarywife84 Dec 23, 2007

    What Southwest and the USO did was absolutely heaven sent. I know that troops and families thank you from the bottom of their hearts. I know I would because my husband is in the Army. This is truly a Christmas miracle.

  • mrtwinturbo Dec 23, 2007

    Southwest? I wonder how many had their belongings stolen from their baggage or miss placed all together? I never fly Southwest for this reason. I am however glad that someone stepped in to help out

  • Screen Name 64 Dec 23, 2007

    Major Kudos to both Southwest Airlines and also to the USO. Remember too folks, anything the USO does, is all donated, their time, food they give the troops. Good story for Christmas!

  • just my2cents Dec 23, 2007

    Hooray for Southwest and our Soldiers! God bless SW for stepping up and doing the right thing for our men and women in uniform. We all need to do what we can to make their lives easier, especially while facing deployment. Merry Christmas to all, God bless.

  • weasleyes Dec 23, 2007

    This makes me glad that I chose Southwest for my latest flights! They are a friendly, customer-focused,great, airline and this just proves again why the are the best US airline! Merry Christmas to you and your employees! When I fly again, I will use Southwest! Southwest, you are the BEST!

  • Heather Dec 23, 2007

    Kudos to SW!!!