Fort Jackson Soldiers travel home for the holidays
COLUMBIA (WOLO): 6,000 of South Carolina’s bravest headed home for Christmas today. Fort Jackson travel offices have worked for months to safely plan their ‘Victory Block Leave’ so these trainees could see their families this holiday season.
However, with Covid-19 still a threat, things were done a little different this year.
With their boots tied, masks on, bags packed, and flights booked…privates Naomi Reyes and Corbin Pluhar said goodbye to their fellow trainees and hello to their homecoming crews in California and Wyoming.
Reyes says, “We just got done with basic training. Ready to go home and see our families and have a good Christmas.”
“I’m very excited. Full of Christmas spirit,” says Pluhar.
After two and a half months, they say this is the longest and farthest they’ve ever been away from family…and have a few things they’re looking forward to.
“Catch up on sleep. Can’t wait to sleep in our own bed, not a little blue mattress they give us in basic training. Hard pillow.”
“Skiing and getting the Christmas tree outside. That’s one thing we always do, is hike up the mountains and cut down the Christmas tree and bring it back home.”
But it wasn’t exactly an easy road to get here…Thursday’s flights have been in the works since October…and each soldier received a Covid test.
Captain Thomas Shade says,“starting ticket sales earlier, bringing soldiers in at a slower pace than we usually do. The attitude here is whatever challenges we have we’ll overcome them. Coronavirus was definitely one of them, but we have all the right measures in place to keep them safe.”
Checking out of basic training, and checking in to their flights home, they say it’s a bittersweet end to a life chapter.
“There definitely was some sadness through it, but we were able to get each other’s numbers so we’ll be able to stay in contact.”
“I always tell my soldiers you gotta cherish the time you get home, especially in the military you don’t always get to see your family. But you’re still a soldier, you still represent the Army. They’re traveling in uniform right now so they’re gonna be traveling across the country and people are gonna see them so make sure you represent well.”