By Capt. Audricia McKinneyJune 13, 2007
DALLAS (Army News Service, June 13, 2007) - A "shower of affection" greeted an aircraft carrying the 500,000th servicemember and DOD civilian returning home for R&R from operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom Tuesday.
The Army and Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport celebrated the milestone by recognizing and thanking the hundreds of volunteers who made the "Welcome Home a Hero" program a success.
Maj. Gen. Sean Byrne, commanding general of the Army's Human Resources Command, and dignitaries thanked the DFW community for their continued support over the last three years.
DFW International Airport, the USO, the North Texas Commission, DFW Chaplaincy, Al Shamel SATO and Air Mobility Command were all presented with certificates of appreciation for their continued support of the troops since the inception of the R&R program in 2003.
"We as a nation and as an Army have asked much of our servicemembers, DOD civilians and their families. And we, in turn, are doing everything possible to ensure their well-being today and in the future," said Maj. Gen. Byrne. "This program would not have been a success without your help."
Approximately 420 servicemembers travel from combat zones daily to take part in the R&R leave program. Two chartered commercial aircrafts fly servicemembers and DOD civilians from Kuwait City International Airport to hubs in the United States, one in Atlanta, Ga., and the other in Dallas, Texas.
DFW was not the only location celebrating this milestone. Both Kuwait City International Airport and the R&R team at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport hosted a celebration in support of the historic event.
In Dallas, servicemembers were greeted by more than 200 dignitaries and special guests as they reunited with families or caught connecting flights. One of the returning Soldiers, Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Jackson from Kansas City, Mo., is assigned to the 524th Combat Service Support Battalion on Schofield Barracks and has been deployed to Forward Operating Base Q-West near Mosul, Iraq, for the past nine months.
"It makes me feel proud knowing I can come into a place like Dallas and see Americans like these cheering us on making us feel good. I'm happy to be home," said Sgt. 1st Class Jackson.