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Airport Angels for Soldiers

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Thousands of U.S. soldiers serving overseas make their way through one connecting point in Atlanta. Amid the hustle and bustle of the world's busiest airport a group of volunteers gives their own salute to the troops. Reed Galin reports.

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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Atlanta, Georgia)

Bob Babcock: “Welcome home. Enjoy your R&R, man. You earned it.”

Most soldiers stepping off the plane at Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta have spent more than a year away from home—and more than 24 hours on the plane.

Bob Babcock: “You’re coming from Kuwait?”

For two years, members of Marietta’s Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church have worked with the U.S.O. to greet soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Some volunteers, like Bob Babcock, are veterans themselves.

Bob Babcock, Member, Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church: “Unlike previous wars, particularly Korea and Vietnam where the soldiers weren’t welcomed back, we make sure they’re welcomed back. And they all appreciate it.”

Female soldier: “Thank you for everything you do. And I love those boxes we get!”

Five-hundred troops come through the airport on a typical day—around 1,000 on holidays.

Sgt. Keith Knutsen: “This is my first time in the Atlanta airport. I’d be completely lost and they knew exactly what I was looking for.”

Bob Babcock: “The first thing we do is thank them for their service. We tell them about the food we’ve got upstairs. We get out of the way when they’ve got family here because the family will run over us.”

Mother greets soldier: “Mama’s baby!”

Specialist Demetrius Irvin, U.S. Army: “It’s something I’ve been waiting for since we deployed in January. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d see this place again.”

Specialist Jesse Ramirez, U.S. Army: “It’s very important because it shows initiative that people are willing to volunteer their time to show us that they care.”

Stella Johnson, Member, Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church: “Oh, it’s wonderful to see these fellas here and talk to them. They like to talk to you about their families, and where they came from and where they’re going.”

Whether greeting returning soldiers or saying goodbye, church members say their mission is to offer encouragement.

Bob Babcock: “We’ll see you when you get back. Good luck and Godspeed. We’ll see you on the flip.”

(Crowd applauds arriving soldiers)

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The Mount Bethel Veterans Ministry group volunteers on the second Thursday of every month. Organizers say it is the kind of program where ten people may volunteer but 14 will show up to help. For more information, contact Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church at 770-971-2880.

Posted: November 4, 2009