Sunday, March 1, 2009

Maine Greetings

My life has been filled with a flurry of activities, so between storms, work and daily life I have been neglecting my blog. I finally removed the reindeer background in hopes that it would hasten the coming of Spring. But as I write this we are expecting a foot of snow.
I wanted to tell you about something that warmed my heart this past week. I was priveleged to attend a workshop in Bangor, Maine for MCEC, which is the Military Child Education Coalition. This organization provides support to members of military families who are left behind when a soldier is deployed. Deployment effects not only the soldier, but has many impacts on the family and children. It doesn't matter if the soldier is career military, or a National Guard unit serving in another part of the States or overseas. Often the spouse must take on a leadership role in the family they may not be comfortable with. The children feel the effects because one parent is away, and the additional responsibilities of the remaining parent often reduce the amount of time they spend with the child. Injury or death of the military member further complicates the family, and MCEC provides support for the family and training to people like myself who work with military families.
Our training was held at the Bangor airport, and at one point we were invited to join the "Bangor Greeters". The greeters are primarily made up of Veterans who realized that our troops were not always welcomed warmly upon returning home. In the early 1990's they took it upon themselves to ensure that every troop plane that entered that airport receive a warm welcome. Bangor is the first stop for many flights returning from overseas, and receives an average of 5 flights a day. Our training halted for an hour as we made our way to the area where the troops would get off the plane. There were about 10 WWII and Korean Veterans present, and one lone family. It was a mother with two young children (4 year old and an infant).
We lined up on both sides of the wide hallway, and the National Guard soldiers poured off the plane from Iraq...setting foot on U.S. soil for the first time in 15 months. We greeted them with "Thank You's", and "Welcome home", and numerous handshakes. Some of the men and women wanted hugs. Tears flowed from many soldiers and greeters eyes. The majority seemed very pleased and clamored for the touches and smiles that we offered. There were a few who showed that they needed space at that time and walked the middle...not making eye contact. We respected that, and I refrained from taking pictures out of respect for privacy. I cannot describe the emotion that was felt by everyone, both soldiers and civilians. I was able to observe the family greet their father and it brought tears to my eyes. That soldier was probably holding his infant for the very first time. I would estimate that 200 soldiers arrived on that plane, and it seemed that the line would never stop. Beverages and snacks were passed out to the troops, as well as cell phones so the soldiers could phone home and let their families know they were back on American soil. Latre that day those soldiers departed on other planes that would take them closer to their homes in other areas of the country. I hope that by now they are back with their families and able to tuck their precious children into bed each night.
The Veterans of the Bangor Greeters will meet the planes any day, any time...even if it is 3am. They keep track and constantly update a write on board with the number of troops that have come through. Before our greetings, there had been 805, 803 troops come through the airport, as it is one of the primary "first stops" for troop planes. They have also greeted 168 military dogs! I am so proud of and impressed with their dedication. They have set aside a large room in the airport that is full of unit coins they have been given. It is a tradition for members of each unit to carry the commemorative coin for their unit at all times. Should they be at a tavern and are challenged to produce their coin and cannot, they buy the round. The room also has tributes and letters of appreciation for the Bangor Greeters, as well as numerous patches and decals. This experience was a perfect compliment to the training we attended. Our society has defiled some soldiers in past wars because of their political beliefs, and their disagreement with war. We all need to support our military families and soldiers and show them that we care, respect and are proud of them no matter what. So when you see a soldier in the grocery store, or at church, or at an airport...please take a moment and thank them for serving our country. After all, they are sacrificing their families and their lives for you and your family.


Alice ~ Folk Art Primitives said...

Wow!! You are a good person ~ what a thoughtful group of people you are! A very heart-warming story!

laurie said...

what a wonderful story, It warms my heart to hear there are people who devote so much time to this. The news is full of negative stories it is nice to hear a positive story.

WoolenSails said...

What a great honor to be able to attend one of the greetings at the airport. I have heard of them and think it is such a great thing for the residents to do. My nephew was one of the men who got treated with kindness and respect during a layover there. I applaud all those who give their time to the men and woman who stop there.


Allison said...

What a wonderful thing you are doing! I'm sure it means more to the returning soldiers than they can express, as well as their families. My niece's husband is in Iraq, and she is home with three small children. Thank you for all of the love and effort you put forth for...God is smiling, I'm sure!

I just found your blog recently, and I enjoy it! Thank you for the updates!

locuasia said...

It is my first time visiting your blog and you made me cry! I am still crying as I type this... but it is a good cry.
Even thought I am not American and live in another country I still feel for the many, many families that have to endure separation due to the different wars. I am happy to hear that there are pleople like you who care about both the families and the brave soldiers.
Before I finish let me add that I love your state! For many summers I would go into Bar Harbor once a week and loved it! Since then I don't eat lobster unless is Maine lobster - which means I have not had any in years :( and people think I am a snob when I say that and refuse warm water lobster :)

Trudy said...

I love this story, thanks so much for taking the time to write it, and to include such great pictures.

Jacque. said...

Lauri...I had no idea that you did this! I'm so glad I visited your blog today and saw it. You are a truly wonderful person. Thank you for sharing this with us.

LadybugSue said...

OMG your is so good, beautiful pix and great placement of words. How do you add Music?