ATLANTA, Ga. -- It starts early in the morning as soldier, sailors, Marines and airmen trickle into the USO at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Backpacks are piling up and inside empty chairs will quickly disappear. And by noon almost 300 troops are already in place.
Most sit quietly in their own space thinking about what could lie ahead in the mountains and on the deserts of Afghanistan.
They have left family and friends behind on America's most patriotic day.
For them, the hours at the USO will be a time to reflect, call home and center their thoughts on husbands, wives, children and parents.
No parades, no shopping and no backyard cookouts.
Next stop -- the marshalling points in Kuwait.
"I guess the average person doesn't really understand how hard it is to be away from home on a holiday like this--so many memories. But on the whole I am proud to serve my Country and be able to do what I do and I just want people to know that we are out there--in the sand and the wind and everything fighting for their freedom," said Brad Coonis, U.S. Army.
"It was so difficult to leave them but I know I will be coming back and it's nice to know I have everybody else here who are in the same situation as me," added Jessica Jacinto, U.S. Army.
"It's not fun. I have a little boy and I haven't spent a holiday with him yet. This is my 3rd deployment since he's been born but it's something we must do," said Robert Salazar of the U.S. Army.
"The irony of it all," added Tamara Becker, U.S. Army, "is that it's our Independence Day and here we have soldiers deploying to war on this very day, going back to Afghanistan to finish what we started."
And freedom carries a high price.
One that means giving up home on America's most celebrated day of patriotism. A price that's recognized and appreciated by the country they serve.