Memorable Military Hospitality

Noted author Bob Greene has written several excellent books throughout his career, one of which is Once Upon A Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen.  It details how the citizens of North Platte, Nebraska made an incredible effort to provide sandwiches and soft drinks to the soldiers on the troop trains that always stopped there briefly during World War II, whether heading to the east coast or west, where military members would then board ships and sail off to war.  Greene estimates that those gracious, patriotic town volunteers probably served close to 5,000 soldiers a day during the early part of the war, from early in the morning until late at night.  “They never missed a train, never missed a soldier.  They fed six-million soldiers by the end of the war,” wrote Greene.

In a recent WALL STREET JOURNAL article (7-23-18), Bob Greene wrote about that same World War II hospitality still in evidence in North Platte today.  An Army National Guard unit from Arkansas had completed its readiness field exercises in Wyoming and was heading back to home station, this time transported by buses.  It was figured that the troops would be getting hungry by about the time they reached North Platte.  Advance calls were made to determine if there were fast food restaurants there that could provide a quick meal-break for the soldiers sequencing through town in a caravan of buses, over a two-day period.  To the pleasant surprise of those road-weary soldiers, after three weeks of sleeping outdoors and eating MREs, rather than fast food, the buses were directed to the town’s civic center, where, over a two-day period, the soldiers were greeted by the North Platte Mayor and abundant volunteers, anxious to serve them sandwiches, soft drinks and desserts, to the accompaniment of current and World War II recorded music.  By all appearances, it must have felt like a 77-year throw-back to the time when the town first welcomed deploying soldiers, back in 1941.

One can’t help being reminded of the similar welcome afforded, deploying and redeploying, soldiers, and other military branch members, here in Coastal Georgia.  Fortunately, with modern air travel, their stops coming back from the Middle East, are for the most part in Europe or elsewhere in that section of the world, followed by still more long flight hours until they are back here, not for snacks and a rest-break, but actually back home at last.  And, with or without snacks, the families and townsfolk in Hinesville, Savannah, and all of our surrounding communities, are just as thrilled to see their soldiers, marines, airmen, sailors, or coast guardsmen home with us again.

Savannah’s USO volunteers, the Red Cross, and others, meet every departing and returning flight at Hunter Army Airfield with, yes, snacks, coffee, handshakes, and hugs, both to send them off, and then upon their return, just prior to that long-awaited reunion with families.  USO Savannah also offers a nicely-appointed lounge at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, for military members from all branches, flying in or out, from morning until night, seven days a week, there to provide snacks, computer access, and a comfortable place to await either a flight or a vehicle pick-up.  And USO volunteers will go out of their way to assist and comfort military members who may be, for whatever reason, stranded at the airport, especially at night.

As with the good folks in North Platte, past and present, the citizens of Coastal Georgia continue to be proud of, and ever so thankful for, our military members, serving here from across this great nation.  We deeply respect, support, and honor our military, as it should be, and will continue to be so, as we care for those who defend and fight for the rest of us.  For we know, well, that our men and women in uniform are the very reason that we are able to share the incredible blessing it truly is to live in American freedom.