Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Serving those who serve

Our family recently gathered with other families from our Trail Life USA troop (an adventure/ scouting program for boys of all ages with a Biblical basis) as well as 200+ others from the Seacoast area of New Hamsphire and Maine to welcome to American soil a plane of 70 service men and women from Oklahoma.  This particular group had been in Afghanistan for 6 months and was on their multi-legged return trip home.

The Pease Greeters organization is a unique program however.  Unlike other groups who gather to welcome troops home, none of the men or women who arrived from overseas actually live in our area. Nine and a half years ago, the Pease Greeters just recognized that these men and women, who are on a refueling layover here in New Hampshire, might enjoy a cup of coffee and doughnut while they wait.   The program has blossomed to include free foods of all types, free gift tables that the men and women can use to gather a gift for a special child at home, free phone calls anywhere... and a loud, joyful welcome to American soil.  The group we welcomed on Sunday had flown from Afghanistan to Romania (with a 3 day wait), then on to Iceland (they did not get off the plane) then to Pease International Airport in New Hampshire. When they took off they were headed to Fort Bliss for debriefing before heading home to family.  One of the men I talked with guessed he'd be home by January 6.

Yes, I cried.  And shook hands and cheered and thanked the men and women and wished them a happy New Year.  

Here they come down the Hero's Walk towards food, restrooms, phones and stuffed animals!

It was awesome, and I'm glad we finally went.  I wish we hadn't waited for such a long time to go out and greet these fine Americans.

Before re-boarding the plane, the organizers of the program held a short ceremony for the men and women.  It was inspiring.

Then, we headed out to the end of the runway be part of the Fence Force -- holding American flags and waving and cheering as they taxied to the runway and took off.

I hope our family has a chance to do this again.

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