BANGOR, Maine — Since May of 2003, a group of Bangor-area residents has gotten together to greet military flights passing through the Bangor International Airport. Since then, the Maine Troop Greeters have welcomed more than 1.5 million troops at the airport.
Like many things, the pandemic forced the volunteers to stop their service.
"Troops were not allowed in public areas for their safety and the safety of others because of the pandemic," Chelcie Shappy, Maine Troop Greeters' board chair, told NEWS CENTER Maine. "At that point, it was the first time that the Maine Troop Greeters have ever missed a flight in their history."
As Shappy explained, the Maine Troop Greeters won't miss any more flights any time soon.
"A couple of weeks ago, we got the notification that the United States Department of Defense had lifted their restrictions," Shappy said. "We started with a couple of small groups [to greet troops], and now we are back in full swing for all our membership base."
For the more than 400 members that make up the Maine Troop Greeters, the thought of getting back to work comforting troops is exciting.
“It’s an honor to do this," Debra Milner, who has been a troop greeter for 17 years, said. "It’s heartwarming to be here regardless if they're coming home or going [overseas]. Just know we’re here to help them to go through everything.”
Aimee Thibodeau is the Bangor International Airport's marketing and business development manager. She said the return of the troop greeters isn't a full return to normal, but it's a start.
"For us, the troop greeters are part of the airport,” Thibodeau said. "Greeters are still masking, and it’s still up to the troop commander when they get here whether or not the soldiers can come down into the main public areas of the airport."
At 10 a.m. on Friday, May 27, the Maine Troop Greeters Memorial Brick Dedication Ceremony will be held at the Bangor International Airport. The event will honor the troop greeters and service dogs that passed away between May 2019 and May 2022.