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Pease Greeters Welcome Home Heroes

     

The red carpet is rolled out for troops rotating through Pease International Airport on their way to Southwest Asia. 

Members of VFW Post 5744 of South Berwick, Maine, don’t just welcome home troops—they celebrate them.

Since 2005, the Post and surrounding community have adopted a ceremony started by the local Marine Corps League, hosting the troops to a reception in their honor, at Pease International Airport.

Pease is a refueling station for military planes headed to and from Southwest Asia. Troops exit the plane and pass through customs. Then the celebration begins.

“The troops don’t know we are waiting. It’s all a surprise to them,” explained Malcolm Kenney, a member of the Pease Greeters and Adjutant of Post 5744. “As they enter the reception room, all of us begin cheering and applauding them.”

In what has been dubbed the “Hero’s Walk,” the 100 or so service members pass through the mob of gracious greeters. This parades them through The Hall of Flags, where donated flags from military conflicts across the globe hang proudly along the walls.

All the while, members of Post 5744 stand proudly, as they have for every flight since May 2005, in their distinctive blue and white, with red VFW emblem jackets, and VFW caps.

“We always have at least 20 members of our Post present. Flights come in day and night. Advance notice is given so everyone can be readied and at Pease within an hour's notice," said Kenney.

A reception of food, fellowship and a bank of free phones are provided to call loved ones. Friends, family and members of various posts from across Maine and New Hampshire plus the Seacoast Marine Corps League are all there for conversation and support. Gifts of VFW Operation Uplink™ cards and mini flags are presented to the troops departing the U.S., by VFW Post 5744 at the final ceremony.

As the troops are ready to depart, a veteran speaks to the troops.

“We tell them how thankful we are for their service and thank them for the sacrifices they have made. Our military is all volunteer. These men and women made a choice to give of themselves for our freedom.”

A salute, a group photo and a prayer by the chaplain ends each powerful and symbolic ceremony.

Looking back on the job his Post has done over 100-plus times, Kenney is amazed by the patriotism the community has toward our heroes.

“With so many gathered to celebrate these brave men and women, it’s humbling to see the American spirit alive and well in New England,” concluded Kenney.


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