Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Welcome Stop for Warriors

LAT: Welcome Stop for Warriors

I've read about this group plenty of times but it's just such a great story. I have to give these Veterans and Seniors alot of kudos. What they do is truly a gift and we should all be grateful for their efforts.

Just imagine this is how many troops they've welcomed home!
Locals in Bangor, Maine, are on a mission to greet every military plane, at any time, in any weather. Their tally so far: 200,000 troops.

BANGOR, Maine — Tired and bleary-eyed, Marines of the 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, based at Twentynine Palms, Calif., were finally back on U.S. soil after seven months on the front lines in Iraq.

Composed mostly from the generation that served in World War II and Korea, they call themselves the Maine Troop Greeters. They have met every flight bringing troops home from Iraq for nearly two years — more than 1,000 flights and nearly 200,000 troops.

Kay Lebowitz, 89, has such severe arthritis that she cannot shake hands. So she hugs every Marine and soldier she can. Some of the larger, more exuberant troops lift her off the ground.

Like the Marines, the greeters have had casualties. Four have died since the group started meeting the planes in May 2003.

Marjorie Dean suffered a fatal heart seizure while she and her husband, Bill, were on their way to meet a late-night flight a year ago. She was 79.

Goodwin missed three days of flights when she was in the hospital for heart surgery.

"I felt like I was in withdrawal," she said. "It was awful not being able to be here for the boys."

Bill Knight, 83, one of the group's organizers, came to the airport just hours after his doctor told him that he has advanced prostate cancer. "It never occurred to me not to come," said Knight, who served in the Army and Navy for three decades.

Francis Zelz, 81, who served in the Navy during World War II, said it is a point of pride to respond even with only a few minutes notice. Many of the greeters were part of a similar welcome-home effort during the Persian Gulf War.

"You get a call at 3 a.m. about a flight in 30 minutes, and you think about staying in bed," Zelz said. "Then you realize, no, I can't do that. That wouldn't be right."
Just think, these people are getting calls at all times of the day and night and in 30 minutes get to the airport to welcome the troops home.

Link from Lucianne and Mudville Gazette.

WWW MyView