FAYETTEVILLE (WTVD) -- Home for the holidays has a special meaning for some local soldiers.
This will be the first time in many years they'll spend Christmas at home and not in a war zone.
In years past, tens of thousands of soldiers have been deployed during the holiday season.
This year, the 82nd Airborne Division said only 4,000 soldiers are currently overseas.
Inside Cross Creek Mall, merchants are seeing two shades of green - army green to be exact.
ABC11 caught up with Staff Sgt. James Gonzalez whose unit just returned home from Iraq a few months ago.
Friday he was scrambling to find last-minute gifts for his wife and kids.
He knows the hardship of being away over the holidays so he doesn't mind the madness of last minute shopping.
"It's tough being away from your family," said Gonzalez. "You have your battles downrange and that's the one you lean on so we build a comradery especially as soldiers during the holidays. It's usually gift packages from other families and we share it so we spread the wealth."
Soldiers brave crowds for last minute gifts