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Monday, October 09, 2006

Texas volunteers welcome home the troops

Thankful citizens greet every flight at the airport

By Janet Shamlian
Correspondent
NBC News


DALLAS - A shower of affection and thunderous cheers.

"Oh my God, it's unbelievable! Welcome to Texas, welcome home!" says a man to a soldier at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

For troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan on a two-week leave, this is their first taste of home. But it isn't home, and most offering hugs and handshakes are neither family nor friends. "It's the first thing we see after customs, and it's awesome," says Army Lt. Anthony Iannuccilli.

Flights from the battlefield arrive daily in Dallas. Every one, for two years, has been met by volunteers who leave jobs, pack up children and drive to the airport. By comparison, it's a small sacrifice.

"Who wants to call home?" one volunteer asks the troops while holding up a cell phone.

"I got off the plane and saw everybody clapping and everything, and I got a little choked up," says Army Spc. Sam Gill.

Though some here oppose the war, this is sacred ground: free of politics and full of understanding that the warrior is separate from the war.

"Being a Vietnam veteran, we weren't received very well when we came back and we're going to make sure it doesn't happen to these guys," says Wayne Trevathan.

"You don't want me to hug and kiss you?" jokes one volunteer to a soldier. "Well, I can stand that, I think."

They meet hundreds of flights and thousands of troops. It's hard, they say, not to be moved by seeing a soldier back safely and closer to loved ones, if only for two weeks.
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