There are a lot of factors to consider when you're trying to determine if any single place is the very best at something. However, when it comes to small towns supporting their troops, Bangor, Maine holds the distinction of very best. They are known for their willingness to make it to the airport and shake the hands of nearly every post-9/11 troop who's gone from stateside to overseas, at all hours of the days, no matter what.
To be fair to every other patriotic town in America, plenty of Bangor's ability to show it's patriotism stems from its location. Since most military flights leaving the continental U.S. towards Europe and Southwest Asia fly through Maine, past Greenland and Iceland, and refuel somewhere in Ireland or the U.K., Bangor is usually the first and last U.S. stop most troops see before and after a deployment.
Odd how a handshake or a warm hug can make a difference to hardened war fighters. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Wood)
Where Bangor shines is within the Maine Troop Greeters. Beginning in May 2003, a small group of Bangor-area residents gathered to meet troops at the Bangor International Airport. Since then, they have greeted well over 7,600 flights and over 1.5 million troops. Rain or shine, day or night, and nearly everyday, they're out there. With a town population that could easily fit into the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, one of the smallest NCAA football stadiums, the Maine Troop Greeters of Bangor are still over 600 strong. From older veterans to soccer moms with kids to pretty college girls, everyone in Bangor comes to see the troops.
More than 1.5 million troops have been greeted by the ME Troop Greeters since 2003. They're unveiling their project years in the making this morning. Truly humbling. #NEWSCENTERmaine pic.twitter.com/gZXE6vVDCc
— Zach Blanchard (@ZachBlanchard) November 10, 2017
It's far more than just a "thank you for your service" from a random stranger. They provide snacks, meals, and use of their cell phones to outgoing and incoming troops. In return, many troops have given them small tokens of gratitude. Troops give them things like challenge coins, combat patches, and even uniforms out of appreciation. In response to this patriotic exchange, they've created a museum to honor every troop that walks through their line of handshakes and hugs.
Their museum to the troops has over 5,500 unique challenge coins, over 1,800 patches, and many photos. There are also two books: One log book that troops can write in and another dedicated to each troop who died in combat. Soldiers have written countless thank yous over the years to the people of Bangor.
(Maine Troop Greeters | YouTube)