They've become famous among the soldiers who have passed through the airport in Bangor, Maine, on their way to and from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among their neighbors, they've become a source of pride. To a nation wrestling with the politics behind the wars, they're an inspiration. They are the "Troop Greeters" of Bangor, an intrepid group of retired and elderly citizens who have taken it upon themselves to greet every troop plane arriving or departing Bangor, which is the last and first piece of U.S. soil many GIs will see before and after their deployments.On Sunday, March 21, 2010 around midnight, the Maine Troop Greeters made history by greeting over one million troops at the Bangor International Airport. Joan Gaudet, one of the greeters and a subject in the ITVS funded, award-winning film, The Way We Get By, agreed to write about this extraordinary achievement.
I am proud to be a Maine Troop Greeter. It makes me feel like I’m doing my little part through all of this. It’s a good feeling when you go to greet the troops and feel like you made their day a little brighter. They call us heroes sometimes but we know we aren’t heroes, they are. Some of these guys have gone through three, four, five, six times. And when they say we remember you, I think it means we must have done something right. It was hard to believe that a million troops have gone through our airport already.
To me, I knew it was a lot but it didn’t seem like it should have been a million. A lot of people say what an incredible accomplishment—how long we’ve been doing it—it will be over 7 years now. But to me, in all honesty, it’s kind of sad. I am happy that we’ve been able to greet that many but sad in another way, because it means we’re sending a lot of them to war to maybe never come back. So it’s kind of a happy and sad thing. It’s fun to greet them seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter but at the same time, when I see how many troops keep coming through, I can’t help but wonder how many we greeted actually came back.
Last year, Bill, Jerry, and I went to Walter Reed to meet some injured troops. It makes me wonder how many more of our troops that went through Bangor are now there? I’ve personally been greeting troops from October 2003 and right now I’m 76 for a little while longer. I have no clue how long this will last. I wish this was over today but I think we’ll probably still have troops there for some time. I guess if they ever decided the war was over, we wouldn’t be greeting troops anymore but that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be troops over there. It really doesn’t seem like it will be done anytime soon. But I’ll keep going to the airport and greeting as long as my health will allow me to. I wouldn’t stop now unless the war was over.
There are some troops that have not had a chance to come to Maine. I hope that they will soon but for those troops we haven’t greeted yet, I want to tell these men and women how much I appreciate what they do for us and for our country. They are all heroes and I guess our country would be a lot different if we didn’t have them. A few days after we greeted past the one millionth mark, the airport threw a party for us. Adjutant General John Libby from the Maine National Guard came and spoke. He told us that when he travels around the world, troops will come up to him and say, "I know Maine….and I know the Maine Troop Greeters." And sometimes, they’ll even mention the movie! I can’t help but feel so proud and honored that they will do this. And thank you for giving me the chance to write. - Joan Gaudet, Maine Troop Greeter For more information on the Maine Troop Greeters, visit www.thewaywegetbymovie.com. P.O.V. will air The Way We Get By on August 3, 2010 (check local listings).
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