photos flight 1 – http://www.flickr.com/photos/woodwind/sets/72157631820255286/
photos flight 2 (arr 1am 10/18) – http://www.flickr.com/photos/woodwind/sets/72157631820413266/
|By Donna Miles
American Forces Press ServiceBALTIMORE, Dec. 23, 2009 – Two days before Christmas, the longest line today at the airport here wasn’t at a ticket counter, or at security checkpoints. It was at the international terminal, where hundreds of well-wishers lined up to welcome about 150 troops home from combat deployments.
Families, veterans, beauty queens, students enjoying the first day of their holiday vacations and even Santa Claus began descending on the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in the early afternoon to greet the arriving Air Mobility Command charter flight.
As they waited for the troops to clear customs, the group revved itself up, turning toward a flag just beyond a giant Christmas tree full of blue-and-white ornaments to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the national anthem.
Then, as the first soldier who had cleared customs stepped into the terminal, the crowd burst into hoots and hollers. They hoisted “Welcome Home” and “Merry Christmas” banners and American flags high.
Hands extended to every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine, along with expressions of welcome and thanks for their service. Troops beamed as they pushed their luggage carts through the gauntlet of well-wishers.
Boy Scouts and veterans helped to carry their duffle bags as the troops worked their way through the maze of outstretched hands – some simply to shake hands, others to offer boxes of Girl Scout cookies, balloons or other goodies.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Army Sgt. Larry Downs, a 372nd Transportation Company soldier who was part of a 101st Airborne Division contingent that deployed to Kuwait to ship equipment to Afghanistan for an upcoming deployment.
“It’s nice to be appreciated for what we do,” he said. “A lot of us do it because we love it. But it’s also nice to get the appreciation, and know that people support what we do.”
Army Pfc. Alma Aguillar, from the 101st Sustainment Brigade at Fort Campbell, Ky., grew up in a military family and remembers how it felt to welcome her father when he returned home from duty overseas. Now, as she returned from her first deployment, to Kuwait to prepare for a year-long deployment next month to Afghanistan, she said it felt great to be on the receiving end of the thanks.
“It’s heartwarming,” she said. “I’m just glad that after all this time, people are still out there expressing appreciation and showing they care. That means a lot.”
Navy Chief Petty Officer Richard Fernandez, returning home after nine months training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, said he bent down and kissed the ground when he took his first step onto U.S. soil. Nothing, he said, had prepared him for the patriotic outpouring of support he and his fellow servicemembers received at BWI airport.
“It gives me a whole new sense of what it means being in the military, and being appreciated for what we do,” he said. “It makes you feel like a real U.S. citizen, doing something for your country.”
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Edwin McBride, returning from an eight-month deployment to Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, said he, too, was taken off-guard by the size of the crowd that amassed to welcome his flight.
“I expected to see maybe a couple of [Veterans of Foreign Wars] guys, but I certainly didn’t expect anything like this,” he said.
McBride had several hours before his connecting flight to Norfolk, Va., where he looked forward to seeing his wife and 7-year-old daughter, Emily. The homecoming was going to be especially exciting, he said, because Emily didn’t yet know that her daddy would be home for Christmas.
“It’s going to be a very, very Merry Christmas,” McBride said, an ear-to-ear smile anticipating the reunion.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Robert Lang, WBAL.com
Operation Welcome Home Maryland volunteers greet troops returning to BWI-Marshall in August. (Photo from operationwelcomehomemd.org)
It is a group of volunteers who take time to greet soldiers arriving at BWI-Marshall after serving in Iraq of Afghanistan.The volunteers of Operation Welcome Home Maryland, plan to be in the international terminal Monday afternoon, and then again Wednesday afternoon and evening as soldiers come back to the U.S. for leave.
Karen Winterling, a volunteer with Operation Welcome Home says the volunteers cheer, bring signs, and wave flags as troops arrive in the terminal. ”It just makes you feel so wonderful,” Winterling told WBAL’s Kendel and Bob Show.Winterling says many of the troops who are passing through BWI-Marshall are surprised at the reception.”They’re waiting for the rock band to get off the flight, because they have no idea it is them that we are waiting for,” Winterling added.
Winterling says the group does need donations of bottled water and packaged snacks, because returning soldiers are given care packages. She says many of these soldiers are staying at the airport to wait for other flights to take them home.She says since March, 2007, the volunteers have greeted more than 60,000 troops.
Volunteers are encouraged to call the Operation Welcome Home hotline before heading to the airport, to make sure the flight is still scheduled to land.
The hotline number is 410-630-1555.
CLICK HERE to access the Operation Welcome Home Maryland Web site.
This is what our Cheryl’s son does in the Navy…enjoy!
We thank Chito from DC for this video:
Our webmaster, Chuck Georgo, activated a new website for Operation Welcome Home Maryland (OWHMD) today. The site brings a new look and greater functionality to the OWHMD organization. He has also fully integrated a guestbook for visitors to leave comments and praise for our soldiers, sailors, airman, and marines, and the new site can be managed and updated no matter where in the world Chuck happens to be.