Parents and students from St. Joan of Arc School traveled to Baltimore Washington International Airport Thursday night to welcome home some 300 soldiers returning home from overseas.
The group, which joined other churches, family members, and organizations, teamed up with Operation Welcome Home Maryland, created signs and assembled care packages in honor of their return.
"It was such an awesome experience and I am very glad we could be a part of it," Terry Welker, a parent from St. Joan of Arc, said.
Among some 200 volunteers stood children holding signs welcoming home parents, and also parents who were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their children.
"Our daughter has been overseas for the past four months and we are looking forward to having her home for the holidays," Joe Cilia said.
Cilia and his wife left that morning and made the 500-mile drive from South Carolina to welcome home their daughter, who has been deployed before.
"She was inspired to do this because we used to live in New York and she was in high school when 9/11 happened. She decided she wanted to do something that helped in regard to that situation," Cilia said.
Also anxiously waiting was Angelica Rodriguez, who was dressed in bright red and blue boas holding flowers and a neon green welcome home sign.
"I’m waiting for my best friend, Rebecca Ford. We've been best friends since we were 13," Rodriguez said. "She has been gone six months and was stationed somewhere outside of Kabul. We did email a lot, but weren’t able to Skype as much. The lines were always too long."
The arrivals became a 'hurry up and wait' game for most family members due to so many soldiers going through customs.
"I was so nervous I was going to be late. But now the waiting is killing me," Rodriguez said. "I just want to see her."
While some kept checking their watches, Cilia kept checking his phone for any word from his daughter.
"She is in customs waiting for her luggage. She was the first on for boarding, so her luggage is going to be the last out," Cilia said.
Every minute the terminal doors would open, the crowd would roar in applause with many shouting "Welcome home," and "Thank you."
Children leapt into the arms of arriving parents. Others cried and embraced joyfully.
"I'll just be glad when [my daughter] walks through those doors," said one man who wished to be kept unanimous.
The crowds cheering became so loud, that passersby assumed a celebrity was arriving at the international terminal.
But to the crowd, the arriving soldiers are celebrities.
"They deserve all the recognition in the world," Mark Shelby said.
And that’s exactly what they got Thursday night.
Click here for more information about Operation Welcome Home Maryland.