DOD Ending Military Flights Through DFW

Flights are being consolidated in Atlanta

By Shane Allen
|  Saturday, Jan 21, 2012  |  Updated 12:14 AM CDT
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Airport staff and volunteers say they will miss welcoming troops home when DFW Airport's R&R program ends in March.

Ellen Goldberg, NBC 5 News

Airport staff and volunteers say they will miss welcoming troops home when DFW Airport's R&R program ends in March.

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The U.S. military's rest-and-relaxation flights soon will no longer pass through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, NBC 5 News has learned.

The Department of Defense said Friday it soon would consolidate operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The change is in response to a decrease in the number of deployed service members traveling between the United States and theaters of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon said.

"It's sad in one sense, but it's good in another, in that we know there are many other troops that are coming home," DFW Airport spokesman David Magana said.

The program at DFW Airport will end sometime in mid-March.

Currently, more than 100 service men and women pass through the airport every day on their way home for two weeks of R&R.

Every day, twice per day, volunteers with the Welcome Home a Hero program give service members gets a warm welcome as they arrive at DFW Airport.

"What we learned form the troops, if we have 10 people there to greet them or 200, they're just as happy," coordinator Donna Cranston said. "It means the world to them that anyone is there to see them."

DFW's program began in November 2004, according to the airport's website. Members of the community go in large groups to welcome troops home in what the airport calls a proud tradition of supporting the U.S. Armed Forces.

"For the airport, it's been really one of the proudest things we've been in the middle of in the history of this airport," Magana said. "To see the way the community has come together over the years has been really touching and really remarkable."

U.S. Army spokesman Hank Minitrez said Friday's announcement was bittersweet.

"We have enjoyed the tremendous outpouring of support from the local volunteers who greet these soldiers. They make the troops feel like rock stars," Minitrez said in a phone interview.

Minitrez said DFW Airport constantly made headlines around the country for the crowds who greeted service members on their way home.

Magana said the way North Texas responded to the program "made us all proud -- proud to be from Dallas-Fort Worth and proud to be in the middle of this great region that can support this in the way that it has for so long."

A majority of the troops already come home through the Atlanta airport, one of the many factors the DOD considered in its decision to consolidate all R&R operations there.

Hartsfield Airport is the world's busiest airport, so the move also made logistical sense, the military said.

NBC 5's Amanda Guerra and Ellen Goldberg contributed to this report.

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