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This time of year, Dave Carpenter puts his passion into action. Even in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the Vietnam War veteran stays up into the wee hours of the morning whipping up hot, home-cooked meals – everything from spaghetti to chicken cordon bleu –  and he does it all for Delta’s Military Lounge.

Food on a table
Carpenter (pictured) is just one of hundreds of current and retired Delta volunteers who lend their time and talents to provide a safe haven for the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who travel through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport during the holidays. Now in its 46th year, the Delta Military Lounge provides free baked goods, fruits, vegetables, beverages and other snacks to all active and retired service men and women and their families. Visitors are also able to watch movies, listen to holiday music, make crafts and play games.

“We’ve grown from handing out a quick snack to serving up a variety of hot food buffet-style,” said Carpenter, a Delta retiree. “And as a bonus, Delta’s Military Lounge is conveniently located right inside B Concourse.”

Military eating in lounge
This past Friday, the lounge experienced its heaviest traffic day of the season when over 1,600 people dropped in as thousands of troops from three different military bases in the southern U.S. made their way through the airport.

Some of the men and women passing through are starting a new chapter in their lives, like one young Marine from Texas who was en route to basic training in Pensacola. “It’s nice meeting people here that have gone through or are going through the journey like you,” said Ishmael Valdez. “I’m honestly just thankful to have a place to kick back and relax.”

And others are just trying to get home for the holidays, like Robert Chastant. The Marine, his wife, their three children, and their new puppy, Beaux, had a 12-hour layover in Atlanta on their way back to Louisiana. When his kids found out they could kill some time playing Super Mario Bros. on one of the lounge TV’s, their reactions were priceless. They were so excited, you would have thought it was Christmas morning. Their parents, on the other hand, were just glad to get some much needed peace and quiet… alone.

Military eating in lounge

Many of the dedicated Delta volunteers have some sort of a military connection, while others just want to lend a helping hand. But all of them see this as an opportunity to get into the holiday spirit.

“We are honored to host the Delta Military Lounge in Atlanta for the past 46 years,” said Greg Kennedy, Delta's Senior Vice President – Atlanta Hub Operations. “It is a great tradition that brings together employees from every department to support and thank our military personnel as they travel during the holidays.”

Delta military lounge entrance

Delta’s Military Lounge is located on B Concourse in Atlanta, across from Gate B33 and is open daily from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. through Jan. 3. There is also a USO lounge located outside of airport security.