EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT)- The Thanksgiving rush is on! A year after the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed how families across America celebrated Thanksgiving, people who came through Evansville Regional Airport Wednesday say they’re happy this Thanksgiving feels a bit more normal.

Emily and Tyler Patton traveled from Texas and say they’re happy to see family again. The Pattons explain they feel safer seeing family this year, as they’ve both already had COVID-19 and have been vaccinated and no longer feel like a risk to others. Tyler Patton says he feels like the country is slowly getting back to normal, and maybe closer to the end of the pandemic.

But for some families, this Thanksgiving means something more. Arleen Petty came to the airport Wednesday to pick up her son-in-law after nearly a year away on deployment. Petty says she’s excited to surprise the rest of her family in Jasper.

But the Pettys aren’t the only one being surprised with an early return from deployment. Drake Allan Cunningham says he only recently found out he was going to be home for Thanksgiving, weeks before he originally planned on being home in mid-December.

Cunningham says it means more than anything he could put into words, saying the surprise his mother will feel is an experience he never expected to have, and he’s grateful for the opportunity.

While AAA says over four million people will fly for Thanksgiving, the organization says over 48 million will instead hit the roads this holiday weekend. In the Bluegrass State, Kentucky State Police Trooper Corey King says the KSP will use safety checkpoints, especially in “problematic areas” where DUIs are more common, to make sure people stay safe on the roads.

While Trooper King says people should watch for traffic and drunk drivers, King says people should also be wary of fatigue. He says people driving long distances should get out to stretch and break up the drive to battle fatigue.