Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

PBS documentary on troop greeters airs tonight

A purpose-driven life: Welcoming troops home an essential calling for seniors

Nov. 11, 2009 - 02:40PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2009 - 02:40PM  |  
  • Filed Under

A troop plane is due to land at Bangor International Airport in Maine and Bill Knight is pacing the airport hallway like an expectant father. When the soldiers finally file off the aircraft and onto U.S. soil for the first time in months, the stooped octogenarian is the first to greet them back from war.

  • Please enable JavaScript for your browser in order to use marinecorpstimes.com.com.
Want to read more?
Current Subscribers
Access to Marine Corps Times Prime is free for current Marine Corps Times subscribers.
Log in
Haven't registered online?
Activate Account
New Subscribers
Start your subscription to Marine Corps Times Prime for as little as 59¢ a week!
Subscribe

A troop plane is due to land at Bangor International Airport in Maine and Bill Knight is pacing the airport hallway like an expectant father. When the soldiers finally file off the aircraft and onto U.S. soil for the first time in months, the stooped octogenarian is the first to greet them back from war.

"Welcome home. Welcome home, sergeant," he says, shaking each of their hands as they shuffle by. "Welcome home."

It's a passing moment for many soldiers, on their way to more emotional reunions with spouses, kids and parents, but it will stick with viewers of "The Way We Get By," a moving documentary about Knight and other volunteers with the Maine Troop Greeters that is screening in select cities this fall and on PBS on Veterans Day.

Since 2003, the greeters have hailed and farewelled hundreds of thousands of service members going to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. Against the backdrop of this constant stream of camo, the filmmakers profile three of the most dedicated: Knight, 86; Jerry Mundy, 73; and Joan Gaudet, 75.

Like its subjects, the documentary spends a lot of time with tired troops in airport hallways and lounges. Jerry cracks jokes as he hands out cell phones: "Call someone up, make them happy, ugly or horny." Bill, a World War II veteran, shares stories about his service in Europe during the war. Joan dispenses hugs like the grandmother she is. And after each flight, they update a white board with the tally of service members welcomed.

These are the kind of scenes that can tug heartstrings with one hand tied behind their back, and they do. But the film's real power comes when it leaves the airport and follows Bill, Joan and Jerry into the loneliness, tedium and worries of old age.

As they struggle with sick and aching bodies, the fear of being forgotten, the deaths and departures of family and friends, the movie illuminates how much this white-haired trio identifies with the men and women in uniform they greet — and the meaning this service gives their lives.

"What am I going to do when I don't have this?" wonders Joan. "I'd be lost."

"My life don't mean a lot to me," Bill says, "but if I can make it mean something to someone else — that's my endeavor."

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.


This Week's Marine Corps Times

This Week's Marine Corps Times

Get ready to rock A&S
MARSOC uses applicants' feedback to redesign workout prep program

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
Woman who cried rape
(3 replies)
   Last Post: TJMAC77SP
        May 3, 2014 1:32 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
Cliven Bundy
(45 replies)
   Last Post: Chief_KO
        Apr 26, 2014 9:49 AM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook