Local News

Christmas miracle: soldiers fly home for holidays for free

Posted December 23, 2007 9:19 a.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2008 11:57 a.m. EST

— 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.