Flight 423...A Memorial Day Weekend Highlight For Pease Greeters
For most of America, Memorial Day Weekend memories include outdoor barbecues, opening pools, gardening and landscape projects and being with family and friends, to recharge the batteries and get ready for the busy summer season ahead.
Although I did spend much of this past weekend on garden and landscape projects, the highlight of this Memorial Day Weekend includes my "Pease Greeter" family and friends, welcoming Flight 423 to Pease International Airport, and meeting our men and women in the United States Air Force, who have made a brief fueling stop in Portsmouth, NH on their way to Iraq.
A tradition beginning in 2005, the Pease Greeters have been welcoming returning troops home and sending troops off for overseas duty and have logged their support for 423 flights to date. Regardless of the time of day or night and unpredictable changes in flight schedules, the Pease Greeters have never missed a flight.
Flight 423 arrived at 9:30 PM at Pease International Airport on Sunday May 29th, and we join the ranks of Veterans, Boy Scouts, families with pets, and supporters of all nationalities - over three hundred strong - to welcome Flight 423. We waited patiently for the 79 Air Force men and women soldiers to depart the Miami Air 737 and make their way down the Heroes' Walk, through the gauntlet of well wishers amid cheers and thunderous applause.
During their stop at Pease, the soldiers are treated to cheers and hearty handshakes from hoards of well-wishers, hot coffee, doughnuts and other treats, stuffed toys and are given access to a bank of phones where they may make calls anywhere in the country. All goods and services are provided by donation and volunteers. During a brief ceremony before departing, as a symbol of support, the Commanding Officer of the troop is presented a sweatshirt hand signed by each attendant Pease Greeter.
A similar sweatshirt was presented to George W. Bush when a delegation of Pease Greeters was honored during a ceremony at the White House on March 10, 2008. New Hampshire's Governor John Lynch also received a sweatshirt when he presented an award to the Pease Greeters praising them for their service at a ceremony on July 28, 2010 at the National Guard Armory in Manchester, NH.
In addition to the hand-signed sweatshirt, each soldier receives an hand-hemmed star, cut from a decommissioned New England United States flag as a heartfelt token of our appreciation for their service and dedication.
Memorial Day is a time to not only remember our past heroes, but to celebrate the dedication and service of our current service men and women. I am proud to be a Pease Greeter and proud of our United States Military!
The "Fence Force" wait outside the airfield fence with flashlights held high! This is about one third of the group!
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