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Heartwarming film pays tribute to Maine troop greeters

By Lt. Col. Paul Fanning | New York National Guard | July 16, 2009

NEW YORK CITY - Military personnel and families will want to see the theatrical release of a new independent film running July 17-23 here at the IFC Center in Manhattan. 

The movie is also for everyone else who has a mom, dad and love for America.

"The Way We Get By” is the story of the Maine Troop Greeters, who greet troops passing through the Bangor Airport on their way to and on their way back from Iraq or Afghanistan.

The group began in 2003 as the Bangor Airport became a frequent stop over for troops shipping out to the combat zones. These dedicated and selfless volunteers have welcomed, supported and cheered more than 900,000 U.S. military personnel coming to and from the combat zone so far, and they are still at it.

The film focuses on three elderly charter members: Bill Knight, a World War II Navy veteran; Jerry Mundy, a Marine Korean War veteran; and Joan Gaudet, who has two grand children in the Maine Army National Guard.

The action follows the three as they juggle separate schedules to greet planes of hundreds of troops who arrive at various times around the clock. Their commitment to the troops despite obstacles of health, age, loneliness and personal situations is often heart rending.

The movie is built around a series of interviews and events woven together in a tapestry of inner strength, concern, vulnerability and patriotism. It provides a unique and special view on "what it means to grow old in America.”

It also shows the bonds built with service men and women and the mostly elderly veterans and others from the community. While the troops wait for their plane to be serviced, they are offered the free use of cell phones and the company of their hosts in the Troop Greeters’ welcome center.

The 80-minute film is a masterpiece that explores the inner strength and compassion of elderly Americans at their best, who face enormous personal challenges and yet use what they have – the time left to them in life -- to reach out to those serving the nation. "The Way We Get By” is the creation of director Aron Gaudet, who is the son of Joan Gaudet. Producer Gita Pullapilly led the interviews and film sequences, which were done over a three-year period.

"Witnessing first hand how her life changed in such positive ways, while at the same time touching the lives of troops from all over the country, convinced me this was a special story that could inspire people,” wrote Aron Gaudet about his mother’s role as a troop greeter. "This is a unique film, encompassing important social issues and controversial topics, while remaining a story that every American can support.”

The film has already won a dozen awards at independent film festivals around the country. "We need a good box office showing in New York City and in Los Angeles in order to get more theater showing opportunities,” said Pullapilly.

The production team has launched a dual promotion program offering free tickets to veterans and elderly through a "Bring a Vet” and "Battle Buddy” campaign. For those of you, who can’t get to New York City for the viewing, the movie is set for nationwide broadcast this Veterans Day on PBS.

For more information, go towww.thewaywegetbymovie.com.