10 November 2009
Wednesday, Nov. 11 is Veterans Day in America. It's a day set aside to honor those who
|These three "Maine Troop Greeters" are profiled in the "The Way We Get By" documentary|
Group has been greeting troops at airport since 2003Filmmaker Aron Gaudet's new nationally broadcast documentary, "The Way We Get By," shows a common scene at Bangor Maine's international airport, as members of a group called Maine Troop Greeters and other local citizens gather to cheer the troops. They come to Bangor International because this easternmost major U.S. airfield, with its 3.5 kilometer long runway and isolated security, is the preferred stop for military planes transporting troops to and from Iraq and Afghanistan.
A core group of about 25 mostly elderly volunteers has received and sent off nearly one million service members since May 2003, shortly after the start of the Iraq war.
The documentary reveals that delivering this simple kindness gives the greeters a sense of purpose. Many say that prior to volunteering they felt they had outlived their usefulness.
|World War Two veteran Bill Knight is one of a dedicated core of about 25 Maine Troop Greeters|
"Life is pretty strange when you're alone. You never know what it's gonna drive you to. My life don't mean a hell of a lot to me, but if I can make it mean something to someone else, well, that's my endeavor," Knight says.
A welcome by Knight and his fellow volunteers certainly meant a lot to two servicemen who expressed appreciation for the display of support and appreciation.
Joy is not the only emotion returning troops feel
Greeter Jerry Mundy, 74, a burly ex-Marine who faces health challenges, encourages arriving troops to use available free cell phones at the airport to call their loved ones.
|Greeter Jerry Mundy, a jovial ex-Marine, loves to welcome home the troops, especially with free mobile phones with which to call their loved ones|
But the film also shows that happiness is not the only emotion returning troops experience as they deplane. Many are still grieving for their fallen buddies.
"I mean you can't get somebody to feel what it's like when you are sound asleep and the whole world explodes. I mean, how do you explain that to somebody? I mean it's over. We're home," one soldier says. He tells the filmmakers the nightmare of war is still with him.
Seniors and soldiers grapple with mortality and isolation
It may seem at first that these troops and their elderly greeters have little in common. But director Aron Gaudet finds poignant parallels.
|Director Aron Gaudet found powerful similarities between the challenges faced by the troops and the older greeters|
The film inspires audiences as it pays tribute to those who serve
The documentary's producer, Gita Pullapilly, who is also filmmaker Gaudet's wife, says she was inspired by the combination of vulnerability and strength shown by the elderly greeters.
|Greeter Joan Gaudet (the director's mother) had her own personal goodbyes to make; her granddaughter and grandson were both being deployed during the making of the film|
As greeter Bill Knight knows well there will be more casualties and more veterans before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are over. Aaron Gaudet's "The Way We Get By" is a timely reminder of the sacrifices made by those who serve, and the value of honoring that service with public and personal tribute.