BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - For many students at Kessler Air Force Base, Thanksgiving is the first time they've been away from their families for the holidays. So, as the base has done for two decades, the base made an effort to make them feel more at home.
Hundreds of students were invited into the homes of community members and other military personnel. Lt. Col. Daniel Schmitt, who had a house full of students Thanksgiving day, wants them to understand that they can always find a sense of home with those around them.
"They may find themselves deployed for Thanksgivings and Christmases in the future, and they can find the same care and love no matter where they are in the world, no matter how they're serving," said Schmitt.
Schmitt believes it's also a chance for his family to see what it means to share the love. The day has a big impact on these students.
"I just feel blessed to be a part of another family," said tech student Dakota Vanoss. "We're just excited to be able to spend Thanksgiving together," agreed student Ashley Hollrah.
And it's not just Air Force students feeling the love. Austin Thompson is a Naval student. He says the time spent with others makes the holiday that much warmer.
"It really does feel like I'm at home. I don't feel like I'm just at somebody's house," said Thompson.
Thompson says the effort isn't surprising, considering the military's dedication to to its personnel and students.
"That's one of the big things about the military. It is a cohesive unit and we are an entire family," said Thompson.
More than 400 students were invited into homes across the community in 2016, the most ever for the event.