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My name is Keith Michaud and this is “Letters From Away,” a blog written by a Mainer living outside the comfortable and sane confines of New England. The blog is intended for Mainers, whether they live in the Pine Tree State or beyond, and for anyone who has loved ’em, been baffled by ’em or both. Ayuh, I am “from away.” Worse still, I live on the Left Coast – in California. Enjoy! Or not. Your choice.
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Tag Archives: Iraq
On a 4-degree January morning, Buddy Doyle pulled off the road to wish a random soldier luck in Iraq.
“We argue to this day who initiated the long, lingering hug,” said Doyle of Gardiner. “I told him, ‘Take care of yourself. Don’t do anything stupid.’”
A year and a half after that chance meeting near the National Guard armory in Gardiner, when the soldier had returned home, Doyle looked the guy up.
“I had told him I wanted to shake his hand,” he said. “I still did.”
He had another goal, too.
A photographer, writer and designer, Doyle had spent years creating glossy calenders of firefighters. Now he hatched a plan to take portraits of reservists guard members at their civilian jobs. He wanted the soldier’s help.
Click on the link for the rest of today’s story by Daniel Hartill in the Lewiston Sun Journal.
BANGOR, Maine — There is little to be said about the Maine Troop Greeters that hasn’t already been said, written about or immortalized in film.
The exploits of the volunteer group, which last week greeted its millionth troop at Bangor International Airport, have been well-established for years, but the group’s chairman said he remains awed by its continued evolution.
“It gets stronger every year. We’re recruiting new members. We’re getting donations all the time,” said Tom Kohl, a troop greeter since 2005 and a veteran of the Vietnam War. “The one constant is the consistent flow of troops coming through.”
Dozens of troop greeters filled seats on the second floor of BIA’s domestic terminal on Wednesday, but for a change they were not awaiting a flight full of soldiers. This day was for them.
Click on the link for the rest of today’s story by Eric Russell in the Bangor Daily News.
Maine Greeters regard
milestone with mixed feelings
BANGOR, Maine — Waving flags, cheering and shaking hands, the Maine Troop Greeters at Bangor International Airport hailed the 1 millionth service member to disembark at the airport shortly before 1 a.m., Monday.
The flight carrying the 1 millionth soldier to come through the Queen City was one of several originating from Fort Carson, Colo., carrying soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
The soldiers at the airport Sunday morning were part of that group of “Iron Strong” warriors who are destined for the wars in the Middle East.
The Maine Troop Greeters come to the airport from all over eastern Maine, day or night, to provide warm welcomes or supportive sendoffs to those who serve the United States in all branches of the military.
Many troop greeters at the airport Sunday morning said reaching the 1 million soldier milestone was something they hoped would never happen, but they will remain at their posts supporting the country’s soldiers for as long as necessary.
“We’re the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and neighbors of these troops who can’t be here,” Tom Kohl, a Vietnam veteran and chairman of the Maine Troop Greeters, said while standing in the airport Sunday morning surrounded by soldiers. “We feel honored.”
The troop greeters began counting the servicemen and women who fly through BIA in 2003.
Click on the link for the rest of this story by Nok-Noi Ricker in the Bangor Daily News.
Though he had seen the streets of Bosnia and Iraq as a soldier, the devastation in Haiti was unlike anything Adam Cote of Portland had ever encountered.
“I had seen the pictures, but to get that 90-degree perspective from pictures doesn’t really prepare you,” Cote said. “It was really staggering. The amount of damage, from a structural perspective, was similar to pictures you see of Berlin after World War II.”
Cote was in Haiti for more than a week with Global Relief Technologies to collect data on amputees who need artificial limbs and on the structural integrity of buildings in the wake of the earthquake.
“I’ve never seen so many casualties,” he said. “I’ve never seen so many overflowing hospitals.”
Click on the link for the rest of today’s story by Justin Ellis of the Portland Press Herald.
(More units are returning from war. — KM)
I watched the documentary last night on three of the Maine Greeters, “The Way We Get By,” and found it touching and moving. I did not mean to watch it, I just did. I fully intended to watch it online today and then perhaps comment on it later, but instead I just went ahead and watched it.
I recommend it for anyone from Maine, has been to Maine or who knows where Maine is on the map; anyone who has a veteran or serviceman or woman in their family, as a co-worker or on their block; anyone who has seniors in their family; or anyone who will become a senior someday.
It was touching to see what Tom Brokaw call “The Greatest Generation” stepping up once again to volunteer to make sure each serviceman and woman flying through the Bangor International Airport on their way to war or back again has a handshake, a hug, a cookie, a chance to use a cell phone. It is unfortunate, however, that so many – 900,000 since the Maine Greeters started their effort – have been greeted.
“The Way We Get By” is not the best documentary that I have seen, but the timing for this particular film seems right. And there are some very touching and very sad moments during the film. It is available online through Dec. 12.
OK, that is it. I promise to move on to other topics now.
Well, one more thing: I seem to recall that the Bangor International Airport was not always the Bangor International Airport. It was once part of an Air Force base and home to a fleet of B-52s protecting us from the “commie threat.”
OK, two more things: I have flown out of the Bangor International Airport and it was nice to see familiar landscape.
I figured I would make one more pitch for the PBS POV documentary on the Maine Greeters, a volunteer group whose members hand out smiles, handshakes, cookies and cellphones to U.S. servicemen and women going to or returning from Iraq and Afghanistan via the airport in Bangor, Maine. Day or night they are there to greet the servicemen and women.
The documentary — “The Way We Get By” — is about aging as much as it is about the servicesmen and women, because the group’s members tend to be elderly and are facing their own battles.
Check local PBS listings for times. If you miss it tonight, I believe it can be viewed on the POV website for the next month or so.
Here is a link to the trailer of the documentary on the Maine Greeters. Please check local listings or return to PBS’s POV website to watch it online. The story is as much about greeting the servicemen and women as it is about aging.
Just wanted to say to every man and woman who serves in uniform or who has served in uniform – from Maine to California – thank you for your service. Your sacrifices and the sacrifices of those who have fallen are not forgotten.
As I grow older and the men and women who are called to serve seem to be getting younger and younger, I have a growing appreciation for the commitment and love of country it takes to don a U.S. military uniform. I am awed by you all.
I am also impressed by a group of people who have been there for servicemen and woman going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Maine Greeters. Members – mostly elderly, some for the wars and some against the wars – have greeted servicemen and women going and returning from war at the airport in Bangor, Maine, for years and a documentary on the group is being shown tonight on PBS’s POV. Please check out local listings and check out the documentary. I believe the documentary will be online after this evening for about a month if you cannot see it tonight. The documentary is as much about aging as it is about greeting servicemen and women going to and returning from war.
Again, veterans, thank you!
Mainers have purchased enough “We Support Our Troops” license plates – just by a hair – to guarantee the plate will be around for the foreseeable future. That is good for Maine, Mainers in uniform, their families, and veterans.
According to a story today in the Portland Press Herald, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said sales of the plate – which shows a yellow ribbon over an image of the state to the left of the plate number and “We Support Our Troops” over a emerald forest background across the bottom of the plate – needed to hit the 4,000 annual sales mark or the plate would be retired. The plate hit 4,017 as of Monday, according to the story by Press Herald staffer Beth Quimby. However, the sales have not been enough to assure the plate’s long-term viability, according to Quimby’s story.
For those outside of Maine, the standard plate carries an image of the state bird, a chickadee; I believe it is perched on the Maine state flower, the white pine cone and tassel. Two popular specialty plates include one with an image of a lobster, which is on 25,511 Maine vehicles, and the agriculture plate, which was launched the same year as the “We Support Our Troops” was launched and is on 13,250 vehicles, according to the story.Dunlap a couple of months ago warned that if sales did not pick up the plate could be retired. Military groups and some businesses got behind the sales effort.
And why not. There are 900 or so members of the Maine National Guard – including a guy I went to high school with – who will be shipping out to Afghanistan and Iraq after the first of the year.
A portion of the sales fee – $10 of the total $55 fee for the plate – goes to supporting families of Maine troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. So far $40,000 has been raised. “Yellow ribbon license plates play an indispensable role in supporting the military,” Capt. Shanon Cotta, spokesman for the Maine Army National Guard, said in the Press Herald story.
There seems to be a bipartisan effort in the state to lower the threshold to 3,500 plates rather than the 4,000 limit. The lawmaker who first proposed the plate, a Democrat, has been marketing the plate to some groups – in some cases to a membership that had not known of the plate – and a Republican is working to have fellow state lawmakers lower the arbitrary 4,000 level.
I suppose I can understand the reluctance of some Maine motorists to get the specialty plate. The specialty plate fee is $20 more than for the standard chickadee plate. A tough economy has been even tougher on small states such as Maine, so an extra $20 means more than it would some other places. And some people – for some unknown, warped reason – still equate supporting troops with supporting the war they have been sent to fight. It is not. Others might not get the plate for fear of retaliation from war protesters, the same people who equate supporting troops with supporting the war.
The plate is good because it tells the men and women who wear the uniform that they are supported in a clear and open way. And each time they see a plate, perhaps they recall that part of the fee goes to supporting their families why they are serving the country. That is good for the morale of the troops, their families, veterans who might not have received the same support in another era, and to a public weary after years of war.
I am not the type to put a magnetic “ribbon” on my car. I am a reserved person. (A “reserved” Mainer may be a redundancy.) But I might consider getting the plate if I wasn’t from away.
Today is the Marine Corps birthday. Happy birthday!
Today is also the day the nation mourns those killed at Fort Hood, Texas. A nation grieves and shares in the loss.
And tomorrow, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day. This would be a good week for a Maine motorist to purchase a “We Support Our Troops” plate, not to support the war, but to support the soldiers, seamen, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who serve.
The Maine Greeters have offered smiles, handshakes, thanks, free cookies and cell phones to 900,000 or so servicemen and women going through the airport in Bangor, Maine, on their way to Afghanistan and Iraq. From all accounts, the simple acts of kindness, pride and patriotism mean quite a bit to the men and women the Maine Greeters see.
The son of one of the Maine Greeters, Aron Gaudet, made a documentary film on the group, “The Way We Get By,” which is being shown Wednesday – Veterans Day – on PBS’s POV. It shows what the three main Maine Greeters do for servicemen and women, but also shows a different side. One of them, a World War II vet, is a staunch supporter of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while the others have their doubts. All three are facing illnesses or loneliness or simply the fears associated with growing older.
Please check local listings and consider turning on PBS on Wednesday evening. It is not about being for or against war. It is about the men and women who serve, whether they are in a uniform or offering a smile, cookie and a cell phone.