FORT BENNING, Ga. (WRBL) – More than 12,000 trainees departed Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, as they set out on holiday leave. Some of these soldiers in training have been on post for almost six months but as the clock struck midnight and the gates opened, soldiers were reunited with loved ones.

Soldiers have been away from their friends and family for a long period with limited contact, now they’ll get to spend almost 3 weeks together.

The majority are being picked up on post by friends, family, and loved ones. Those of whom started to line up around 8:30 PM. Although they waited over 3 hours, they say the excitement was worth it.

Melanie Williams, a mother of a US Army Trainee told News 3, “we wanted to get here early so we’re excited that we got here early because we got to be second in line so we’re super excited and my son just called he wanted to make sure we were on our way and I said were second in line.”

Williams got emotional telling News 3, she is grateful to have her son under her roof for the coming weeks, she says the family will cherish it, as spending the holidays together in the coming years is not guaranteed. She said, “every Christmas might not be like this so I’m thankful that we get this long period of time with him, I know the next few Christmas’s are not certain.”

The line of cars to enter the gates of Fort Benning backed up miles long. Reunions with Soldiers and their families continued on into the morning.

Soldiers will return to post on Jan. 3.