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Home for the Holidays: Soldiers and Veterans reunite with families at Ford International Airport

Posted at 12:02 AM, Dec 24, 2016

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -There’s no place like home for the holidays, and that’s why the Gerald R. Ford International airport is partnering with the Patriot Guard Riders of West Michigan to welcome troops home during one of the busiest travel days of the year.

American flags, hugs, and tears of joy filled the airport Friday with a very special welcoming for our soldiers and veterans coming home for the holidays.

"This is called Operation Hand Shake and we do this every Thanksgiving and Christmas," says army veteran Tony Vangessel. "It’s a special kind of love you can only find in an airport terminal."

Family and loved ones crowding at the airport with handmade signs welcoming home our heroes and for some the wait is the hardest part.

"It means the world to me, my children mean the world to me that's all i need for Christmas," says Carrie Campbell, a mother of an airman.

Each military personnel coming home greeted with a special welcome from the Patriot Guard.

"We never got welcomed home, ya know in the 70's and stuff so for us to do it and to see the looks on their faces - it's an awesome feeling,"  Vangessel says.

An overwhelming sense of pride calling even perfect strangers to join in on the holiday spirit.

"The tears in our eyes and theirs - it's a little way for us to say thank you," says Edwin Marino, a supporter of Operation Handshake.

But for the mother of a soldier the gift of having her baby home for the holidays is priceless.

"It means the world to me, I'm glad he's serving our country," Campbell says.

"I missed them, I was gone for like 6 months.. it's hard to be away so it's very good to be back and see them," says Ann Tyler Campbell, who is home from serving in the U.S. Airforce.

It's a heroes welcome for veterans and those currently serving.