Another wave in the holiday exodus of military service members stationed in San Antonio is expected by the end of the week, according to Alan Waterman, manager of the USO Center at San Antonio International Airport.
As of last weekend, Waterman said he estimates 6,000 of them in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force have stopped at the USO's VIP room to await their flights home.
"The Navy and the Air Force actually left on Saturday. The Army left Sunday. Today is Lackland Air Force Base," Waterman said.
Among them was Airman Brandon Washington of South Carolina, who just finished basic training.
"It's been a while since I saw my family. It's been five months so I'm ready to go home," Washington said. "Miss the food, my friends, the atmosphere, the family."
But Washington said he was grateful for the hospitality being offered by the USO. Many could be seen relaxing or dozing on its plush sofas, surfing the internet, talking on cell phones or browsing over the food and refreshments.
Although now in the digital age, Waterman said he and at least 60 devoted volunteers still carry on the USO mission established in 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"He wanted a touch of home when he sent the troops to World War II," Waterman said.
A Navy veteran himself, Waterman said he's never been where America's military is now being deployed.
"It's something that I'm very humble about," Waterman said. "It is my pleasure to help them."