Coast families, military members travel for Thanksgiving

The USO is putting on several holiday events in support of our military members.
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 5:21 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - You can expect to see more traffic on the roads and in the sky with Thanksgiving Day less than 24 hours away.

Many Coast families reunited at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport Wednesday, including the Niolets from Pass Christian.

Husband and father Scott Niolet spent the last seven weeks in Florida helping with hurricane recovery.

When he walked through the gate at the airport, his three small children jumped in his arms as he fell to the ground.

“It’s just great to get home and see the kids for Thanksgiving,” he told WLOX. “This is fantastic.”

For some, it was also just an ordinary day of travel.

“Plane rides are pretty packed around this time of year, but it’s to be expected,” U.S. Marine Robert Franklin said.

Franklin is from Virginia.

It’s his first time to Mississippi, but within hours, he was already forming new relationships in the USO military lounge.

“It can be a very sensitive time for our service members and their families. A lot of them are traveling, but a lot of them are traveling away from their families,” USO Gulf Coast Executive Director Felice Kelly Gillum said. “And so, we try to be there as the USO to give them the conference and the cheer of home even though we know that a lot of times they can’t be with the ones that they love.”

“It’s wonderful actually being able to come in and get free food, free snacks and everything,” Franklin added. “Just kind of chill around here and get to know each other, meet new people. Coffee, definitely some coffee helps.”

Airman Jose Velez is finally heading home to Puerto Rico after training about nine months between San Antonio and Biloxi.

“I don’t even believe that I’m going back after so long. It’s really nice,” he said. “Leaving home, I studied college to be an English teacher and I come back being a med tech for the Air Force.”

Velez will arrive home around midnight, and his family has no idea.

“I’m going to wake them up on Thanksgiving morning with a good surprise,” he said.

The USO has scheduled several holiday events in support of our military members.

If you would like to learn more or lend a hand, click here.

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