DURHAM, N.H. – Over 40 members of the University of New Hampshire men's and women's track & field teams took an evening off from their personal lives and traveled over to the Pease International Airport on Thursday, Jan. 17 to participate in the Pease Greeters program in Portsmouth, N.H.
The Pease Greeters, established in 2005, are a group of civilians who welcome men and women American soldiers passing through the Pease International Airport either on their way to or on their way home from serving overseas. The troops are welcomed to an initial greeting of cheering Americans and are then offered refreshments and a chance to phone loved ones on their short break in between flights.
The group of UNH track & field athletes welcomed a flight of troops stopping at Pease on their way from California to Afghanistan. The flight landed at 9:15 p.m. to the collection of patriotic Wildcat greeters before the athletes and soldiers swapped stories and took pictures. The evening ended with a ceremonial speech and the collective singing of the National Anthem.
"This was probably one of the best experiences I've had at UNH," said George Jumpp, a senior on the UNH men's track & field team. "We cheered when they got off and shook their hands, but the most touching part was hearing all the stories from overseas."
In addition, some of the soldiers were given UNH track & field t-shirts and apparel, but Jumpp maintains that their best gift was the general sense of national familiarity for a group often so far from home.
"You could really feel that they just enjoyed seeing Americans again and feeling that support," said Jumpp. "I hope we can go back and do this again."