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Pease Greeter and retired Marine Norman LeMote welcomes troops returning from Afghanistan at Pease International Airport in Portsmouth Tuesday. (Timothy Buckland/Union Leader)

Troops welcomed home at Pease facility

PORTSMOUTH -- Retired Marine and Pease Greeter Norman LeMote was overwhelmed with emotion Christmas morning as troops made their way through the Pease International Airport terminal.

"I've got tears in my eyes," he said. "This is so wonderful."

The troops were from varying detachments serving in Afghanistan.

"This is fantastic," Maj. Rachel Thorne said after walking past hundreds of cheering greeters. "It's a good feeling. It's good to see the real people we've been serving and protecting."

Thorne, who was born in the United States but grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, said she is between assigning units.

"I'm technically homeless right now," she said. "I guess I live deployed."

The organization, formed in 2005, greets more than 50 departing and returning flights each year, typically with hundreds volunteering to serve as greeters.

After walking through a cheering crowd, the troops were treated to lunch and as many hugs and thanks as they wanted.

"It just feels so good," said Sgt. Matthew Wilson, a native of Mississippi who had spent the last six months in Zabul Province in Afghanistan. He has to go back in two weeks, he said.

First-time greeter Kaitlin Maloy of Strafford burst into tears as she hugged Thorne and asked to have their picture taken together.

"It's just a beautiful experience," Maloy said. "It's amazing to think that these people are so happy to see us."

Chris Perreault said she was thrilled to spend her Christmas morning at an airport terminal to have the experience of greeting the troops.

"I just heard about this last night," she said. "This is the best Christmas I've ever had."

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Tim Buckland may be reached at tbuckland@unionleader.com.


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