• Changes at St. Louis Airport for troops flying home for the holidays

    ST. LOUIS – COVID-19 is making the journey home challenging for troops during the holidays. 

    A big holiday tradition here at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport is seeing big changes. As always, volunteers at the USO are making sure service people are not forgotten. 

    Colonel Aaron Bohrer at Fort Leonard Wood said troops will be following all pandemic health guidelines during their trips.

    “Soldiers will correctly wear face masks at all time during travel,” he said. 

    Every year, thousands of troops leave Fort Leonard Wood to go home for the holidays through St. Louis Airport. COVID has dramatically made things different this year. 

    “Soldiers will be immediately screened prior to departure and those that are symptomatic will be tested and quarantined and may delay their travel,” Bohrer said. 

    Troops are being reminded of COVID health safety guidelines. They’ve been practicing those guidelines for months at Fort Leonard Wood. 

    In past years, 5,000 troops would flood the airport on one day to enjoy fun, tons of food, and simply relax before their flight home, all thanks to the USO. 

    That’s all been put on hold.

    There’s no party this year. And smaller numbers of military members will arrive at the airport over a three-day period. Civilian passengers feel safer.

    “It does make me feel better if they’re doing those things, absolutely,” said one passenger.

    Even though the USO cannot offer a big spread of food, the organization is making sure the troops don’t go hungry. They’ve partnered with Veterans United Home Loans in St. Louis. 

    “When we saw that unique need, it pulled at our heart strings,” said Pam Swan, a spokeswoman for the mortgage company.

    The loan company is picking up the tab for the 5,000 to-go food bags. And all that money for meals will go to small business people hammered by the pandemic.

    “We are splitting it up amongst different restaurants in the St. Louis area that are locally ran,” Swan said. 

    It may be different this year but the USO is doing everything to show the troops how much people care about them.

    “I think they should be able to come home in a safe manner and take time out with their family a well,” passenger Barry Hudspeth said.

    Troops are also receiving a gift bag.