Soldiers on Former President's Greeting - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

01/12/06

Soldiers on Former President's Greeting

President Clinton shakes a soldier's hand in Bangor, Maine. President Clinton shakes a soldier's hand in Bangor, Maine.

We told you yesterday about Third Infantry Division soldiers greeted by former President Bill Clinton (Former President Greets Returning Troops). Two separate flights--one carrying the former president, the other, troops from Iraq--stopped at Bangor International Airport in Maine at the same time for routine refueling.

This afternoon, those Third ID soldiers were back at Hunter Army Airfield. They say, when they first arrived at the airport and heard the news about the former president being there to greet them, none of them actually believed it.

After a year away from home, it's back to business as usual for the soldiers of the 1st Battalion 3rd Aviation Brigade. One big difference is the topic of conversation.

"We were standing on the ramp, coming in on the ramp in the airport, and saw vets with the USO that were there to receive us and hear people saying, 'Oh! Clinton's up there, President Clinton's up there!" Pfc. James Long told us. "And we were kind of just, 'Yeah, right.'"

After being on an airplane for more than 18 hours, the last thing these soldiers expected was to be greeted by anybody at all, especially in a place like little Bangor, Maine. Even as they stood in the receiving line, there was still doubt about whether or not the man at the end of the line was truly President Clinton.

"Everybody was saying, 'No he's not, no he's not,'" Capt. Michael Milas said. "Everyone kept denying it. Nobody really believed that the former president was actually there to receive us, but lo and behold, he was."

From what these soldiers told us, the former president stayed around to greet more than 600 soldiers who just arrived home on American soil.

"We get to the airport and we had a big reception line," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Quick. "People were just clapping, they had signs, we weren't expecting that. And at the end of the line, President Clinton just standing there shaking everybody's hand. It was unbelievable."

The former president even posed for pictures.

"Coming to Maine, coming to US soil was great," said Staff Sgt. Quick. "President Clinton was the extra cherry on the cake right there, but coming back here to Savannah was a little more than that. "

One of the soldiers we spoke with is actually from New York. He says he's going to put the photograph he took with Clinton next to the one he has with New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president's wife.

Reported by: Nicole Teigen, nteigen@wtoc.com

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