The holiday period's largest troop movement
Home for the holidays
U.S. troops march through airports to reunite with families
December 18, 1997
Web posted at: 4:00 p.m. EST (2100 GMT)
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Think USO and maybe you think Bob Hope Christmas specials, but the private, non-profit organization does much more than set up celebrity-studded entertainment for U.S. troops overseas.
Then again, Santa Claus could be considered a celebrity -- and he was on hand Thursday at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport for Operation Exodus, helping make the holiday period's largest troop movement just a little bit easier.
"Hartsfield is the world's busiest USO today," said Mary Lou Austin, executive director of USO Georgia.
Thirty thousand troops will move through Hartsfield during the holiday period, Austin said, a full third of them Thursday. Four military bases near Atlanta began busing their basic training troops to the airport Wednesday, where they're greeted by USO and other community volunteers armed with refreshments and lending assistance with gift wrapping and baggage checks.
"We been on the job since 1 a.m.," Austin said. "And tonight we'll probably stop at our regular time, about 9 p.m., if we've got them all through."
And they'll be back Friday, reuniting troops with parents and directing them to flight gates. USO Hartsfield is set up in the Terminal Atrium North, third level, Austin said.
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