Normally, when our troops return home after serving our nation overseas, some friends and family members will be on hand to welcome them home, along with Bangor’s troop greeters.
But when Hermon High School girls soccer coach Ben Poland returned to the Queen City after a three-month tour in Iraq recently, he was in for a huge surprise.
After a longer-than-expected day of traveling Aug. 14, Poland touched down at Bangor International Airport well after midnight and walked through the terminal to find several of his players waiting for him with signs, T-shirts and gold-and-blue balloons.
Poland had no idea his players would be waiting to welcome him — especially since his flight landed well after midnight — but after Hermon junior varsity coach Meghann Burnett informed some of the players what was going on, it was an easy choice.
“We were all like, let’s all do it. All the seniors wanted to do something special for him together,” said senior Jamie Treadwell who, along with her teammates, arrived at BIA around 10:30, expecting their coach to land shortly thereafter.
Poland spent a few days in Qatar after leaving Iraq before flying to Romania and on to Baltimore. He was delayed there for four hours before a short, 20-minute flight to Philadelphia, and didn’t board a plane to Bangor until around 11.
“It was crazy when I left. It was a long day on the way back,” said Poland, whose fiancée Jessie and 2-year-old son Liam were also on hand to greet him.
Treadwell, classmate Dani Ross and the other Hawks saw a military plane land shortly after they arrived at BIA and shook a number of troops’ hands only to find out Poland wasn’t one of them.
“We all lined up and shook their hands and he wasn’t there,” said Ross.
It turns out, Poland’s plane was the next one to land.
“It was a good way to start [preseason] because we all missed having him around for our summer league and stuff, so it was good,” said Treadwell.
Poland was flattered at his players’ gesture.
“It was actually really special. My mom was there and my fiancée was there and my little guy at 1 in the morning, but seeing the players there totally surprised me,” he said. “It totally blew me away getting off the airplane.
Poland, a member of the 101st Air Guard Unit, based in Bangor, was returning from his second tour of duty overseas. He had previously been deployed to the United Arab Emirates in 2005.
Treadwell was moved by the experience of shaking the hands of the men and women who serve our nation proudly.
“It was actually a really cool experience seeing all the troops come in because we didn’t realize everybody lines up and shakes their hands and stuff,” she said.