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December 29. 2012 10:41PM

Christmas greetings: Special ones happen at Pease

It is not easy to make a retired Marine cry, but on Christmas morning, Norman LeMote was choked up.

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

LeMote was not sitting under a glowing tree, unwrapping a gift from a loved one. He was not watching "It's a Wonderful Life" or holding the winning lottery ticket just drawn from his stocking. He was standing in an airport.

The gifts that passed in and out of his hands that cold morning were handshakes he offered, out of affection, to total strangers.

The recipients were U.S. service members arriving that morning, of all mornings, from Afghanistan.

Maj. Rachel Thorne was among the many fatigue-clad personnel surprised by cheering greeters at Pease International Airport. "This is fantastic," she told our reporter, Tim Buckland, who also was there. "It's a good feeling. It's good to see the real people we've been serving and protecting."

The civilians who came out on Christmas morning to greet these arriving troops were, of course, volunteers for the Pease Greeters.

Since 2005, these patriotic citizens have made sure that service members returning to Pease are greeted by friendly, welcoming faces. If the flight arrives at 2 a.m. on a weekday or early on Christmas morning, it does not matter; Pease Greeters will be there to welcome our warriors home.

Though it was Christmas morning and it was snowing in parts of New Hampshire, hundreds of Pease Greeters made their way to the airport. They could have stayed home and opened presents by the warmth of a crackling fire. They chose instead to warm the hearts of their fellow countrymen returning from war zones.

Would that we all kept our brothers and sisters overseas so close to our hearts.


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