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Hugs and happiness with holiday family reunions at Quad City Airport

MOLINE, Illinois -The holiday season comes alive at the Quad City International Airport on Thursday, Dec. 22. That's especially true for military and service families separated by faraway assignments.

For a military mom like Janet Cantrill, what's a few more minutes after waiting months.

"Oh, my God," she said.  "I'm going to cry."

A symbol on the airport monitor shows that the plane carrying her son is arriving soon in Moline.

"Today is Christmas for me," she exclaimed. "This is it."

They brought balloons, signs and plenty of good cheer for Private Blake Cantrill. The '16 Rocky High grad is on leave from Fort Benning, Georgia.

"Awesome, awesome," he said, taking it all in at the airport.

Kayla Jones, 21, is back home on Thursday.

"Can I have another hug?" she asked.  "I missed you so much."

"I missed her face," added her mom, Chris Jones.

After tough assignments with AmeriCorps, she's getting a holiday break in Blue Grass, Iowa.

"I want to go out to eat with them and probably go take a nap," Kayla said.

Kayla provided disaster relief in the Southeastern U.S. after floods and Hurricane Matthew.

"They lost everything," she recalled. "But they were so appreciative I was there to help them with whatever they needed."

Her hugs help to remember a life-changing experience.

"It opened her eyes to different ways people live, and ways she can make a difference," Chris said.

For John Heikes, 22,  an eight-hour flight from Honolulu to Chicago marks a return to Roseville, Illinois. He spent four years in the Marines, serving in Japan and Korea.

"It's an American tradition," said his dad, Paul Heikes.

John is home for the holidays and ready to start classes at Carl Sandburg College.

"I'm just going to put him to work," Paul joked.  "It's just good to have him back."

"Feels good," John added.   "It was a long time away."

All around the airport, family reunions filled with cheers and tears.

"I'm just so excited to have him home," Janet Cantrill concluded.

Lots of love, too, this holiday season.