MAINETROOPGREETERS.COM
Honoring Our Heroes
~DEDICATED TO OUR HEROES~
 MEN AND WOMEN WHO ANSWERED THE CALL OF DUTY
 and
THE GREETERS of BANGOR, MAINE
by Donna Woodward
     13 West Fryeburg Rd., Fryeburg, Maine 04037
     Tel: 207-935-3959 
     Email: donna@fairpoint.net
What must it feel like to leave your loved ones to go to war? Just leaving my dog for more than two nights is emotional for me. Yet on any given day hundreds of soldiers are getting onto planes to travel far away from their homes, friends and families in an effort to protect our constitutional rights and help other countries become as blessed and free as we are.

As we go through our daily lives we become so focused on personal  trials, tribulations, and routines that we too seldom stop and place  things in proper perspective. We speak our minds, we have our opinions, and we are free to be who we choose to be. We work, play, and go to school where we want, we own property, drive, pray, shop, travel and live where we want. Itıs call freedom and we are blessed to have it. But how often do we reflect on why we are able to enjoy this freedom? Not nearly as often as we criticize, complain, disagree, and insult each other. When did so many become so arrogant, disrespectful, self-serving, and careless? We need to pay attention folks and put things back into perspective. We need to count our blessings and respond to the world with a more positive energy - united.

Iıve always believed that if you sought answers with an open mind and open heart, the answer would come and you would have the wisdom to see it. My answer came in the form of an email from Jennifer Reagan at ReMax Country Living. She had just returned from a  family visit in Bangor, ME. Her sister Kimberly had started a new job at the Bangor Airport and insisted Jennifer come greet the troops with The Maine Troop Greeters and Jennifer did. Her email  told me about her experience and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Her excitement and emotional story was just the dose of reality I was looking for and  the wheels were set in motion. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to learn more about these amazing fellow Mainers. I was overwhelmingly drawn to this powerful group of earthbound angels who  made me feel so proud to be from the same state.  I decided to dedicate my two publications to our troops; heroes  who put their lives on the line so we can have our privileges and The Maine Troop  Greeters; who put their energy into spreading goodwill, support, and gratitude.

I called Jennifer and we were on our way to Bangor to talk to the Maine Troop Greeters and as many soldiers as we possibly could before they headed off to Iraq.  I had no idea at the time that this would end up being one of the most humbling and emotional experiences  I may ever have. I hope you enjoy this publication and  my quest to honor our soldiers . I hope it opens your eyes  and hearts and that you will be as strongly effected as I.  If it  makes you stop for even a moment and count your blessings then I have done my job.


A Little About Maine Troop Greeters
Bangor,  Maine is the first and last stop on U.S. soil for hundreds of thousands of soldiers going off to war. A dedicated group of Mainers have been putting  their politics aside to say ³Thank you² to our troops virtually every day. The planes arrive with little notice at all hours of the day and night but that does not stop the greeters. When the call comes they are up, dressed, out the door, and waiting  to greet the soldiers when they touch down at the Bangor airport. Welcoming troops started as long ago as 1991 with hundreds of people gathering to greet and praise our heroes, however, when flights en route to and from Iraq and Afghanistan started in 2003 the Greeters needed to become more organized for security reason. This is when the airport, chamber  of commerce, and local veteransı organizations took the lead and made it possible for the greeters, (sometimes a dozen - sometimes many dozens) to do what they do best. Each and every plane, carrying one or more soldiers, has been met with cheers, applause, salutes, and handshakes; these strangers giving warriors love and gratitude they so truly deserved. They will find cookies, candies,toiletries, books and cell phones (for free calls home) in the old duty-free shop that has now become their ³welcome -center.²  You will find none of the  indifference or hostility here that some of the Vietnam vets faced. These Maine Greeters are determined that troops are met with respect and appreciation.²We all should have gumption  enough to say thanks for what they are doing for us² states WW2 veteran, 84 year old Bill Knight. Knight, a Bangor resident says. ³What could I possibly have  to do with my life that could mean more then seeing that the troops are treated right.² Knight, like all the Greeters, is there when the troops arrive and stays with them, talking, sharing, listening, and supporting them until they reboard their planes. God Bless our troops and God Bless The Maine Troop Greeters. Check out their website:  www.mainetroopgreeters.com
JENNIFER AND DONNA GO TO BANGAH!!

A Mothers Story:

As we sat drinking coffee at the local Dunkin Donuts she began. ³My husband, Philip, is retired military,² she said. ³twenty-five years, Army.  Our son, Herbie, graduate UME in 1985. In 1987 he came  to New Jersey where we were stationed and worked as a Rec Director for the government. One day he came home and announced he was going to enlist as a MP. By 1991 he was on his way to Korea as a Medical Tech. We are so proud of him. He went to OCS and was accepted, became Ranger High  Achiever, was with the Tenth Mountain in 1994, and spent a year in Bosnia in 1996. When he came home he was reassigned to Fort Bragg where he went to language school to learn Arabic. Right after  9/11 he was sent to Afghanistan for a year and then deployed  to Iraq for the first time Sept. 2002 for seven months. After a short visit home he was back to Iraq for another six months before returning to North Carolina. From here he got his orders to report to Levinsworth for a year where he got his degree before another deployment to Iraq for a year. These were not easy times for a  mother,² she said as her eyes filled with tears. ²You need a strong faith in the Lord to get you through it.² Melody went on to tell me how hard it was to listen to the news and politics and that it was the emails, photos and reassuring messages from Herbie that help ease  her mind. She said  that communications would stop during a black out period and that was when she would pray the hardest. ³Black out  is when a unit has lost a soldier. It would last until the soldiers family had received notification² she said sadly. ³This happens often.²

Melody explained how being a Maine Greeter helped her to cope. ³My Herbie is on his third Humvee,² she said. The last one hit an IED (improvised explosive device). There were three soldiers; one died, the other was wounded and rescued by Herbie while under fire. He received a metal of Honor and also has a Bronze Star. So far Herbie had beat the odds but his day  came on Sept 26th. He was on a humanitarian mission, working as a  civil affairs officer. They had just finished the day and as he was getting into his Humvee he spotted a little girl. As he turned to reach for a doll to give to the child he took a bullet in the arm. This would have been a fatal shot had he not been reaching for the doll. ³Herbieıs dad knew but they kept it from me. I found out by  accident when some of his unit came through Bangor and one of the soldiers told me Herbie was recovering well,² she stated. Herbie was in Texas waiting for his next orders now and like the true soldier that he is, he was anxious.  His mother very proudly told me her son wishes they had left him in Iraq for another four months. ³We are really getting a handle on things over there.² he told his mom. As he stated in an email to his parents, ³If we intend to win the people of Iraq over and garner their support, I will need all of your help, and  anyone you know that wants to support us as well. We have found many  agencies that need our help as well as individual families. There are hospitals, police stations, fire stations, youth centers and schools, that lack the basic stuff. We could use whatever people want to send and I will assure the items sent get to the right people. The Iraqis are in dire need of the simple things in life that we, as a rich nation, take for granted.²

As she was seeing her son off on his last deployment she handed him a bag of her homemade chocolate chip cookies. As he  was boarding the plane, swinging his bag of cookies as he walked, this bigger then  life Major of the armed forces became a little boy again in the image of a mothers mind.

(If you would like to help you can send your donations directly to:  Civil Affairs Officer, HHD 1st Brigade 4th ID, APO, AE   09378-0001)
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It is now almost 6:00PM. Dee had arranged for us to meet long time greeters, Lynne  and Bud Tower. As we were readying to leave for their house, Kimberly announced that an unexpected flight was coming in.  ³You need to hurry.² she exclaimed. ³ An arrival from North Carolina is landing for refuel at 20:15 oıclock tonight.² How lucky could I be. I was going to get to greet two planes tonight. When we arrived at Lynne and Budıs they had a pizza waiting for us. They shared stories and emotions with us as we consumed our pizza. These are some of the original hard core greeters and they were treating us like we were part of the family. I didnıt even have one greet under my belt and I already felt like I was part of something so big and wonderful and powerful that the feeling became intoxicating.

³Itıs 19:30 oıclock and weıre 15 minutes from the airport. We better move it,² announces Bud. As we entered the airport several greeters were already in line waiting for the troops to exit from the plane.  I had just taken my place in the long line of greeters when I heard a roar of hoots and cheers. As I looked up I saw them coming down the corridor, like a sea of combat uniforms marching toward us. Their  faces lit up as they realized that the cheers, whistles, and salutes were for them. I must have looked like a deer in the headlights as a  wave of emotions swept over me. I had never felt so proud to be part of anything in my life. There were hundreds of heroes walking through the line and I touched the hands of everyone of them! I spent the next two hours trying to keep up with Jennifer as she moved through the room talking with different soldiers, trying to educate me on the ranks, and picking out ones for me to interview, which actually became a heart to heart.
Part of a Thank You Letter From A Soldier on 2/22/06
While en route of a miserably long, cramped journey, we had the pleasure of spending some time with the Maine Troop Greeters at Bangor, ME. I simply cannot say enough good things about these folks. We had stopped for a flight crew change at 3:00AM and I was surprised as I rounded the corner leading into the terminal area and saw a line of volunteers standing there with a warm smile to shake the hand of every Marine and Sailor that walked by. Many of them wore caps indicating service in WWll, Korea, or Vietnam. During the time we spent there they mingled amongst the troops, taking photos with us, sitting and talking, shaking hands, and just generally wishing us well. The terminal was a virtual shrine to service personnel, with photos, plaques, a troop greeterıs gift shop and a book memorializing the casualties. These people spend entire days, regardless of the day of the week and sometimes the better part of the night in the terminal to ensure the troops a smiling friendly face and a warm handshake or a hug prior to leaving on deployment or to welcome them home as they come back. And they ask for nothing in return. I, for one, want to express my sincere gratitude to all of those volunteers and others like them across the nation. Their efforts do not go unnoticed. In a small way it helped renew my faith in the people of our country. So to those folks in Bangor, itıs my turn to say ³Thank youı.


My Conversations with Some of the Soldiers

PFC Health Blais is from Oxford, ME. He spoke of his two brothers and a sister he was leaving behind at home but his focus seemed to be on his patriotic family members of whose shoes he chose to walk in when he enlisted  eighteen months ago in the army. His brother, a navy seal, now stationed in Atlanta Georgia, is on his list of  heroes as well as his grandfather. ³My grandfather was Armor Calvary in World War ll², he stated with great admiration. Heath is a Calvary Scout. He spent the last eighteen months training for his mission at Fort Knox with three weeks of airborne and was very excited and ready to do his job. ³Iım 100% behind getting the job done. To quit now could mean world wide terrorism as our enemies would build strength in what they would perceive as a victory. As a Calvary Scout I am they eyes and ears of the army and Iım ready!² state PFC Blais proudly.

I approached two soldiers sitting quietly across the room, Sargent First Class Eric Rouse  from Lisbon, Ohio and Sargent First Class  William Tucker from Boone, NC. Sargent Rouse was on his second trip to Iraq. Both had families and two children they were leaving and as difficult as that was they were very proud and positive about their duties. ³We work hard to train and educate them in Iraq. We should  not leave until we get them to a point they can operate a free democratic government on their own.² says Tucker. ³Weıve gone to far and sacrificed too many to turn back or stop now. It just wouldnıt be right. It wouldnıt be fair to the soldiers and families that have made the ultimate sacrifices for the cause. We need to get the job done.²  was the voice of Sargent Rouse. When asked how their near teen  children felt they both, without hesitation, said their children are aware of what is going on and willing to make the sacrifices too.

PFC Brian Murphy enlisted 18 months ago. He told me he had just said  good-bye to his fiance earlier that morning. He gave her a ring eight months ago and as he was talking I couldnıt help thinking he seemed too young to be thinking about marriage but yet here he was trained and ready for war. ³Watching my girl drive away this morning was harder then going to war for me², states Brian. ³My parents donıt  care much for the war. My mother just wants me to come home and be safe. She had two brothers in the Vietnam war so itıs real hard on her. My baby sister is a freshman and  my other sister is pregnant so when I get home I will be an uncle².  I believe in the good things we are doing and I know we have to get on top of the situation in Iraq.  Trickling soldiers into that country isnıt working. We need to hit  Œem hard², he says with the wisdom of a man many years his senior.

Letıs hear it from the girls!!  Private Jennifer Lee Homan looked  more like a model for an army clothing line. She was beautiful, young and vibrant. I had to ask her ³why². ³My dad was air force, and my baby sister enlisted in the army in 2004. She is stationed in Germany and loves the army. Since I hated college and it wasnıt happening for me there I decided to follow the path of my baby sister² she says. ³I know it seems like these people donıt want us over there but helping them is the right thing to do so thatıs why I am able to leave my  friends and family to do my part.²  When asked what her job was in the army she proudly announced -²truck driver.² ³When I get home after my duty is up I know what  I want to do now², she says with a smile. ³I want to study  culinary arts and open a restaurant.²  

Staff Sargent Gene Williams from Princeton, Maine has already served 11 years, enlisting when he was only 17 years old. Gene has seen a lot in his military years as a Forward Observer. ³We all have our jobs to do and theyıre all equally important. My job is searching for targets to hit and spotting oncoming attack aircrafts². Gene has  served in North Carolina, Korea, Alaska and Thailand. When asked how  the civilians of Maine could support their Maine troops he was quick to answer. ³Speak with your legislators and town officials on our behalf. We are not properly represented², he states. ³We, as veterans get to hunt and fish for free but we still have to pay income taxes , sales taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes - while we are in a hostile country  fighting for our nation. I am a resident of Maine but I donıt live in  Maine. Maine is my home state and I am proud to be a resident of this state. I donıt want to have to give that up. My wife and children live in North Carolina where I am stationed. I am over seas and I still had to pay Maine taxes when I purchased my car in North Carolina. Talk to your state and town officials and get it on the  books that veterans have EARNED a break on taxes.²  Consider the message forwarded Staff Sargent Williams. Your point is well taken  and youıve earned a lot more than a break on your taxes! As for the war, Staff Sargent Williams sees another three years possibly before we claim victory and are able to pull out.
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It seemed like time stood still for that two hours. The next thing I  knew they were told to prepare to reboard their plane to leave for Iraq. The realization that this would be the last time they would be on U.S. soil for at least a year was nearly more then I could grasp.  As I was shaking their hands, thanking them, and wishing them a safe  return a wave of reality hit me that some of these soldiers may not  be passing  through the lines of Maine Greeters on the return trip. I was totally unaware of the tears rolling down my face as I stood so bravely smiling and wishing them Godspeed - totally unaware until the sweetest young man in uniform put his arms around me and whispered  ³donıt cry².  I never had a chance to catch his name as he was  swept along by the hundreds of marching heroes as they  boarded their plane.

I saw a man and his wife with a teenage son sitting off to side waiting for the next military plane to arrive. When I approached them they told me they were expecting their 22 year old son, Senior Airman Joshua Farrar to arrive on the next flight. Joshua had called them just hours earlier to let them know his flight would  be landing unexpectedly, in Bangor that evening to refuel. ³We drove from our home in New Harbor, Maine for a final opportunity to see our son before he left for Iraq,² his father stated proudly. ³This is our sonıs first trip to Iraq and we are very supportive of his work.² Joshuaıs father and mother were both air  force and his brother is in ROTC. Dad was a Chaplin in the service and is still doing his work as a pastor of his church. ³I know a lot about the emotional side of assignments such as the one my son  is on, ³ he said. ³When Joshua returns he will feel very positive about his efforts. I know it is very hard to leave your family behind but now that I am a parent rather then the soldier I realize it is even harder on the ones waiting at home.²  Chaplin Farrar will be praying for the safety of all the soldiers deploying as well as offering comfort and support to the families left behind.

Itıs a little after midnight and we are waiting for the next plane to  arrive. I overhear a ten year old boy asking his mother if he could  skip hockey practice in the morning because he was certain to be too tired to go. She reassured him that seeing his dad was more than enough reason to forego hockey practice. Later after the plane had landed  I saw their reunion and I heard the father explaining to the child why he had to go to Iraq even though it meant leaving him and his mom for some time. He told his son, ³ imagine the feeling you will have  at the end of all your hockey practice and you are ready for your first game. The coach calls you onto the field. What would stop you from getting into the game?²  Nothing the child answered. ³Okay now  you know why I have to go to Iraq. Itıs what Iıve worked and trained  for all this time and Iım finally getting called in.²  The little boy nodded with a look of complete understanding on his face as he smiled and hogged his dad..

Another loved one waiting for this unexpected flight to arrive was  Kathy Seavey. She is the girl friend of Master Sargent Keith Orr from Trenton, Maine. He was part of the 101st refueling wing and communication flight. Orr states that he has been enlisted for 22  years and served in Germany, Loring AFB,  Mass., Westfield  AFB, and Bangor. ³Now the time has finally come for me to serve in  Iraq.  I thought it would never get here and  I am excited to serve my  four months. I have a 10  year old son, an 11 and 15 year old daughter and Kathy has a 13 year old daughter. I will miss them all very much but when I return I plan to retire. As for right now, I come from a very military family and I support everything we are doing in the military. It sure makes it all worthwhile when we are greeted by people such as yourself. The Maine Greeters are a very unique and  appreciated group. Iıve read about them and seen it on the news but  it sure is different when you actually experience it. I take my job one day at a time. Right now my job is to go replace the guy over there waiting to come home. Iıve been emailing back and forth to him for 42 days and he sure is looking forward to seeing me!,² he exclaims. ³Oh, and one more thing² he says as I start to move on to another soldier, ³ I want people to know I am a traditional guardsman. My full time civilian job is at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor. You can learn more about that at
www.jax.org.

When talking to one of the higher ranks in charge of the air force flight he explained to me that he was a Load Master. His job was to get the troops there safely. The plane was carrying 10-12 squadrons and group supervisors. This was his 3rd trip over to serve another four months. His squad was already over there. ³Our job is to protect  and defend our constitution.² He seemed to grow taller and prouder with each word that he spoke. ³ If the people over there end up with even a little taste of what we have here in our country, it would be a wonderful thing.² He continued to fascinate me with his descriptive talk of the landscaping saying that he was on a fly mission last trip  over and Southern Iraq is very desert but northern Iraq is a lot like home with farm land and the people work for a living and are no different from us. We are doing the right thing in helping them achieve democracy in that country so they can run it without dictatorship and  live free for the rest of their lives.
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It was once said by a very wise person -²Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you - Jesus Christ who died for your soul and The American G.I. who died for your freedom.²  I canıt wait to greet the troops again, and again, and again, for as long as there are troops passing through Bangor.

From the Locals of the Fryeburg Area
My Dad is not only well known for his poetic reviews of the Fryeburg Town Meetings from years past but has also  been recognized and honored  with awards for many published poems. I called and asked him if he could write a poem for our troops and he said heıd try. Later that day he called and said he had finished it.  Here it is...
.
HEROES ONE AND ALL
by
Leonard Kiesman

We are a nation of heroes
Some great and some small
But a hero is a hero
when they step forth to heed the call
To protect the freedoms we are given
A gift to you and me.
They assure us with their sacrifice
That forever weıll be free.

From the times of George Washington
Up to the present day
We have always had our heroes
To protect the American way.
We can never thank them near enough
For itıs their participation
That has let us grow from but a few
Into the greatest nation.

We have accomplished many wonders
Thatıs made the Eagle soar with pride
Weıve had our wars and sad times
That is when the Eagle cried
But our heroes always realized
Thatıs the way things had to be
A man cannot be a man
Unless that man is free.

Ask not what your country can do for you
President Kennedy once had said
But rather ask what you can do
For your country instead.

When trouble and threats to our country
On the horizon starts in brewing
Our heroes ask not ³what can I do?²
They step forward and start doing.

I canıt express my gratitude
For what you have granted me
The right to live without any fear
Knowing I am free
You have let the mighty Eagle fly
And kept our stars and stripes unfurled
And the torch of freedom burning bright
Bringing hope throughout the world.

When men and women such as you
Come forward without hesitation.
You become the heroes of your time
The guardians of our nation
So take your place among other patriots
Who have seen we never fall
You will forever be our countries hero
Our debt to you is far from small

There isnıt much that we can give back
And so little we can do
Except express our appreciation
And the respect we have for you.
Thank God for brave young Americans
That come forward to do your part
So again we say to you, our heroes
Thank you from all our hearts
.
Letter from a Dessert Storm Veteran
David Knapp - LTC, CA, USAR
US Army Special Operations Command
.
Donna Woodward told me the theme of this piece was about thanking those who serve.  In an era when our reserve forces are being mobilized at such an historically high level, I feel it is more important to say thank you to the members of the families, to the friends, neighbors, and to the community in which we live that makes this service possible. In my own case, I donıt believe that my year in Iraq would have been possible without the outpouring of care and assistance from the community. Have no doubt that this war may not effect us economically (we are not saving tin scraps or rationing sugar for the war effort), politically (though many may disagree with the political reasons for the war, our soldiers are not allowed that luxury), or emotionally (there probably are people that donıt know someone in the service or necessarily care) our troops go into battle every day regardless

On many levels the ³citizen-soldier² has a much more difficult ³career² in the military than does his active duty counterpart.  It is harder for those in the reserve and national guard to attend the required professional schools, convince employers that the six week deployment to Honduras to build a road is critical to national security or for many of us to leave our families and friends when the reality of deployment hits like a freight train.

The mobilization of the reserve component of the armed forces for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the largest since the Korean War and many who may be unaffected by the war on a daily basis know someone or know someone who knows someone who is in Iraq or Afghanistan or are in the service preparing for a deployment.  Maineıs own National Guard has deployed the 152d Maintenance Company, the 133d Engineer Battalion, and, elements of the 172d Infantry Battalion (Mountain) to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 240th Engineer Group is currently serving in Afghanistan (other national  guard soldiers from Maine have deployed as well with out of state of ad hoc units).  The Marine Corps Reserve deployed the 24th Marines (a reserve unit) a company of this battalion is from Topsham.  The Army Reserve deployed the 94th MP Company and the 619th Transportation Company from Saco and Auburn respectively.  At one point in this war, Maine had the highest percentage of mobilized reserves serving overseas from any state in the country.

Add to those facts that in 2005 over 50% of the forces in Iraq were from the Reserve Components of the Armed Forces (Army, Marine, etc.) and you begin to understand why each of you reading this probably know someone (whether they are active or reserve) who is or has served in this war.  Donıt forget too that this is the first war we have fought in since World War I where a draft was not in place.  Those serving today are all volunteers‹something extraordinary to ponder in and of itself. Additionally, we need to realize that the service in this war is simply a continuance of the call to duty that Fryeburgıs citizens have answered throughout our nationıs history.In my own quiet bit of the village my neighbors include Jerry Smith a Vietnam USMC veteran, Derrick Schlottman (owner of the Admiral Peary House) served on nuke subs in the 1980s and 1990s and conducted multiple combat patrols during this time), Wendall Moore is a World War II vet who served in the Pacific, J.D. Hill, a 2006 graduate of the Academy is on active duty with the Air Force, Bob Mallon is also a USMC veteran of Vietnam, Ralph Guptill, a Korean War infantryman, and attorney Buzz Pratt a Navy Veteran of Vietnam all live, work and interact with us on a daily basis.  There are more veterans out there, of course, and, more to the point there are families here in Fryeburg who have been affected by the loss of someone they know and love in this recent combat.  Fryeburg has lost its citizens in war before-- Graustein Memorial Park and our veterans monument are the townıs most visible reminders of the ultimate sacrifices made by our townıs families.  

Your support of our troops is an important morale booster, I can attest to that, and the personal touch is no less important to the service member today than were the Salvation Army ³doughnut dollies² serving hot coffee and doughnuts near the front in World War I, or the USO shows of World War II.  The card, letter, or package that you take the time and care to send off to someone you may not know is the  most meaningful thing one can receive overseas.  Couple that effort with those of the Bangor Troop Greeters and there is truly a great impact on those that are going to war and returning from it.  When I passed through Bangor on my way to Iraq from Fort Bliss, Texas being greeted by the folks from Bangor made my too brief layover in Maine all the more important to me--knowing that I was only 160 miles from my family and my home‹the greeters made me feel welcomed. The other 250 troops on my aircraft were stunned by the generosity and kindness of these strangers from Maine, the last folks they would see in the US for a year.

Finally, and most importantly, families send their sons and daughters off to the military every day knowing that within six or eight months that they may well be serving in the combat zone. So, it is to those brave families, those that have raised their sons and daughters to serve our country in peace or war, that I say thank you.  To those veterans that have served our nation during this war or any other, I say well done.  To those that are serving now and will in the future, I say, stay safe.

.
Recalling Vietnam
Henry Neddenriep
US Army - Vietnam Vet 1964-1969
.

Sam Stone is dead and gone
And thereıs nothing much to say
About the man he was or the things he tried to do.
He killed his fellow men
In a far off foreign land
He fought and died for the likes of me and you.
He was laughed at for his pain
And slowly went insane
From the things that heıd done and the love heıd never find
And thereıs nothing worse then dying in your mind

Thereıs a hole in Daddyıs heart that no one knows
All his friends died for nothing I suppose
Donıt try and stop the tears
Heıs shed throughout the years
You canıt help ease his pain, he never letıs it show.

This doesnıt mean that every Vietnam Vet fits this mold. It only means what one vet has seen and felt every day and night of his life for the last thirty-five years, and the vets that I meet at the various help facilities that I frequent weekly.

If you want to have an effect on a vietnam vet - hug him - and tell him that itıs because heıs a Vietnam vet. No need to thank him, heıll say he was only doing his job. Donıt...Don't say ³welcome home!² His first thought will be ³where the hell were you 35 years ago?²  Just give him a hug and let him take from it what he needs.

.

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night
by Rip Tyoe - a Vietnam Vet
It was on tv with you every night - the explosions, the shooting, the dead  burnt bodies, villages on fire, children screaming, and mothers wailing. There was nothing there for entertainment value but you still watched in morbid fascination, blaming not the administration that was making it happen but the warriors that were trained and sent to get the job done. We were teenagers that had stepped out of school and into a jungle where we were the hunters as well as the hunted. We did not ask why or what we as a nation stood to gain by being there. We just did the best we could to survive the horror. We came home, not to open arms and hero status like our fathers, but to being called murders, baby killers, and village burners. We were spat upon and accosted in the airports. We couldnıt walk down streets in our uniforms without becoming the target for angry words. What did we do? We did what we were trained to do. Find cover. We hid within ourselves and self ³medicated² with alcohol and drugs or whatever else we could find to stop the pain.  Some of us went into high risk jobs to feed the adrenaline habit that combat creates.

We hid within ourselves, had bad relationships, got into fights, and were inexplicably explosive at the least little thing. We hid in  society and most people never knew the nightmares and night sweats and tears that would show up at the oddest times  and for no apparent reason. Itıs said very well said  in a verse of a song written by Rip Tyoe about a vietnam vet that overdosed and died:
Youıre alone with the pain. Darkness all around you. A sense of guilt, loss and sorrow at the things youıve done and seen. All your long dead friends are with you.

Youıve learned to realize joy in living through your children. Their  need for love and fulfillment satisfied by your very presence. They smile and laugh knowing the satisfaction and security of your love for them. They donıt question whether it will ever end or fade to indifference or even be lost to a preference for someone or something  more exciting or fulfilling. They know you will always be there for them in their times of need.

Being a Vietnam vet means reaching  out in your time of need and  finding not the loving, caring warmth that you long for but a clenched fist full of alone, with the darkness all around, and the hollow feelings of loss and sorrow of what might have been and the realization that all you have is the pain.
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Recalling Iwo Jima
Irving Potter
World War II Veteran in the 28th Marines

It was some sixty years ago when our regiment landed at Iwo Jima, the most critical battle during the American war in the Pacific. Itıs important to tell the story, especially for young people. Many of the younger people have no realization that they owe their freedom and  comfortable lifestyles to men and women who sacrificed their futures to ensure our present. We would leave right from high school and some were even let out of school early so they could sign up. Everybody back then volunteered for the service. I joined the Navy medical corps. After graduating from that, I volunteered for the Fleet Marine Force and was assigned to the 28th Marines. We were shipped off to Iwo Jima where our mission was to isolate and capture Mt. Suribachi, the highest point of the island. As long as it remained under Japanese hands it served to give a two hour warning to mainland defenders. We stormed the beach at Iwo Jima at 9:00am on Feb 19th, 1945. The beach was volcanic sand over a foot deep and we could hardly move. We struggled to get off the beach but became sitting ducks for the Japanese. The casualties were great. I was one of the casualties that first day. After being evacuated for treatment and because US casualties were so numerous I was  returned to the island along with all other soldiers that could still walk and pull a trigger. The work of  a medical corpsman was exceedingly dangerous.  Entrenched in their caves, machine gun nests, and pillboxes, the  Japanese waited for the call for medic to snipe at the responding  medics as they hastened to their patientsı sides. After a high count  of casualties  and many days under fire we finally secured the island on Feb.  twenty-third. Hundreds of bombers were saved proving that taking over Iwo Jima was very necessary. The projected invasion of the Japanese main land never took place, as the Japanese unconditionally surrendered in August of 1945  following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaski. We never got relieved on the line during the whole operation. God knows what would have happened if the Japanese hadnıt surrendered. Iım alive today because  of that bombing and surrender, I have no doubt.

When the war ended we were converted from ³invasion troops² to ³occupational troops². Our division stayed in Japan for two more months until the army came in and relieve us. We were shipped back home to be discharged. The year  1950  I got the call to serve in the Korean War.  As I reminisce about World War II I remember our  ³gung-ho² spirit. I also remember a nation that was united which it has not been since. We fought the war on two fronts back then. That was an amazing thing. We were all in it together. Thatıs why we were so success - everyone participated!

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"Being There for the Troops"
by Representative Roberta Muse

One of the responsibilities of public office is showing up at a wide variety of events. As in many areas of life and work, the "just being there" often speaks louder than words.

Twice I've had the responsibility--and privilege--to "just be there" when our military troops moved through the Arsenal in Augusta.

In the spring of 2005, as one of our battalions was being deployed to Iraq, a call went out to the House and Senate that our presence was requested on
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THANK YOU TO OUR MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIFORM
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With a huge sense of gratitude and respect, I join in saying thanks to the brave men and women of Maine who serve in our armed forces.   Whether in times of peace or in times like today, when so many  are in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan, our citizen soldiers have sacrificed for the rights and freedoms which we all enjoy but often take for granted.

The sacrifices of our volunteer military are huge.  Lives are put on hold.  Family and jobs are left behind for long tours of duty.  Many face the deprivations and dangers of a war zone.  Some suffer terrible wounds and a few, but always too many, give the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in defense of our great country.  

President Calvin Coolidge once said ³The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten².  Although these words were spoken long ago, they remain true to this day.  

Ours is a great nation.  Let us never forget the men and women who have defended us as we live happily and freely.

I hope we can all join together and say thank you, brave soldiers, for all that you do.  As you take risks and make sacrifices to maintain Americaıs greatness, you are also shining examples of that greatness.  The people of Maine, and all peoples of this country, will never fully know the lengths you have gone for us, and we will never be able to thank you enough, but we will support you, and pray for you, and we will never forget you.
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Western Avenue
to help send off the latest army of Maine soldiers.  I found myself wandering among a hundred small islands of humanity, each huddled around their soldier in dread of the imminent departure. Between smothering hugs and kisses, they reached out to each other with the silent comfort of a stroked cheek, a brave little smile, a slap on the back, and offered each other small tokens of remembrance--a teddy bear, a cross, a scribbled note or carefully folded letter--to tuck away and cling to later.

After shaking hands with a few of the departing soldiers, I slid to the back of the auditorium to face my conflicted feelings of pride, pain, and irrelevance in the face of such agony. The scene struck close to home, as I,  too, had seen a child off to boot camp and  five years of service.  I couldn't imagine how that pain compounded for these people who were facing the very real possibility of never seeing each other again.

Last spring, the Legislature was honored to greet a battalion as it passed through Augusta on its way home from Iraq.  This time, it was the crush of screaming and hooting relatives that pushed me to the back row of this much happier event. Although I completely missed the sight of the jubilant soldiers marching into the room, I shared the joy of their safe return with everyone there.
 
More importantly, I hope my silent presence added to their confidence that we--their families, their friends, their neighbors, their state and their nation--are there for them.
 
Most importantly, I want them to know that we thank them daily for their years spent in the uniform of the United States of America...always being there for us.
                                                                                                            by Senator David Hastings III
³Hi Jen - this is Donna. I got your email about the Maine Troop  Greeters! We have to go.² This is how it started. She knew she had me and she was darn proud of herself for it! We met for lunch at Fryes  the next day and started our strategy. We were going to spread this positive, supportive outlook all over the world - okay, maybe just  Fryeburg and Brownfield but itıs a start. By the end of lunch we had made plans to  go to Bangor and join the Greeters...feel the emotions...be part of the uniting. Wow, I could hardly wait! ³Iım going to dedicate both my newsletters to honoring our troopsı² a told her excitedly. Jennifer quickly got busy making arrangements for our lodging (her mom and dad were awesome hosts) and she called her sister, Kimberly to confirm flight schedules. I contacted the Maine Greeters on their website and got an immediate response from a lady named Dee Denning. She was as excited as we were when I told her what we wanted to do. The plans were set. We were leaving Saturday for an 11:45PM greet.  It was an out going plane. (Theyıre all pretty much out-going planes now, I was told. ) This was not going to be easy!

We arrived in the Bangor area around 4:30pm. Right on time to meet Dee and  Melody Joliat, the proud mother of a soldier. She was anxious and bursting with pride and stories to share.


 
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