"We've got a lot of loved ones that are missing family members because they are overseas serving our country right now. We just want to give them a round of applause, give them a gift and say Merry Christmas. We want to show them that we appreciate them," Ken Whatmore said.
The group says they have been getting together for the last four years. They meet every year on Dec. 22 because for them, it's a tradition. Saturday morning the group welcomed home countless troops, many of whom were surprised after walking off the escalator at the airport.
"It makes me feel good that people appreciate what I do and I appreciate doing it for them. It makes me feel like I'm contributing to our country, like I'm serving America," PFC Enrique Delgado said.
Delgado's family was among the crowds of people there to welcome him home. Delgado, like many others, will be deploying to Afghanistan in the next few months. He says this is the last time he will be able to be home and spend time with his family before he leaves the country.
"I can't explain it; it's just a really great feeling to be home, I'm really thankful to be with my family, especially for Christmas." Delgado said.
Many of the people in the crowd didn't know the soldiers, but for people like Jerry O'Nan, being at DIA to welcome home the troops had a deeper meaning. His daughter, Chelsea, is stationed in Hawaii and just like Enrique Delgado, she'll be deploying to the Middle East soon.
"As a parent, just like any parent, you're just really proud. You know, as a parent, we just pray a lot. We pray that she'll be safe," O'Nan said.
But on Saturday, those prayers were answered for the families who were able to receive their solider. Even if it's just for a few days, families get to be together, soldiers get a chance to relax and forget about the worries of combat. They get a chance to enjoy the peace that the holiday season always seems to bring.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)