Mr. O'Leary, our Latin teacher, is a Vietnam Veteran and oftentimes speaks of the ways in which he and his fellow veterans were treated when they came home (and it wasn't pretty). Now, 40 plus years later, it is the goal of the Pease Greeters to make sure our troops are never treated like that again.
At the start of the school year, senior Nicole Fell came to me asking if we could do something for troops coming home from overseas. I had heard about the Pease Greeters and told her that once they have a flight on a weekend or after school, we would absolutely go. This morning was our first opportunity and man was it powerful.
I met Nicole, 6 other students, and two parents at Trinity at 5:45 this morning! We caravanned out to Pease Tradeport in Portsmouth arriving around 6:30. I really had no idea what to expect in terms of people but the place was full of about 100 people! These people go to Pease no matter the time or the weather to welcome troops home or to wish them well as they head off. Today we were meeting a plane of troops heading overseas.
One of the greeters gave us a tour of the airport pointing out some of their mementoes, including a flag from the Battle of Guadalcanal, pictures of every group of troops that have come into Pease, and a room full of phones where troops can call home for free. We mingled for a bit and then lined up to welcome the troops. We all began clapping as they processed in and they seemed so happy to see us. The procession only lasted a few minutes and we all then went into another room for food and conversation.
The students struck up a conversation with a troop from Minnesota. She said they had come in from Fort Dix in New Jersey and were then off to Iceland, Europe, Southeast Asia, and then their final destination (she never said where). She was very nice and took a real interest in our students. After this, we all went into a big hall for the troops' picture and a brief ceremony which consisted of the National Anthem, a prayer, and some remarks from folks.
I get all teary eyed at these types of things and this was no exception. As the troops went back outside to get on the plane, we all clapped again and the troop from Minnesota waved a mini-American flag at our students which really touched them.
It was a very simple event but yet so profound. I can't wait until we go again.