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      Thousands of soldiers at Fort Jackson head home for the holidays

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- About 8,000 soldiers who have been stationed at Fort Jackson packed up their bags, lined up, and headed home for the holidays Thursday.

      "It means everything," said Army Private Lynd while waiting at the airport to fly home to Wisconsin. "I haven't seen my family in two and a half months, and that really hits me -- being able to go back home and see everybody that I left before I went to basic."

      Troops in basic training boarded buses as early as midnight Thursday morning, 800 of them heading to Columbia Metropolitan Airport to fly home.

      "I'm going to Washington, D.C.," said Army Specialist Meadows. "I have a family in D.C. I have three kids. It's been some time. I [had twins] before I left, so [they] should be a year old, so it's going to make Christmas very interesting."

      The training and time it took to learn to defend our country made new soldiers appreciate this holiday season a little bit more.

      "Basic training -- it made Christmas even more special -- to be away from your family for so long and actually see them around the holidays, it makes you have a good feeling inside," said Army Specialist Lassiter who waited to fly home to Ohio.

      About 200 soldiers will remain at Fort Jackson throughout the holidays. The rest of the soldiers have to be back at the base by January 4.