Vice president lauds BIA troop greeters

Posted Oct. 04, 2009, at 11:06 p.m.

For the three subjects of the documentary film “The Way We Get By,” it would have been hard to top the events of last Wednesday and Thursday.

The movie, a look at the lives of three area senior citizens who are troop greeters at Bangor International Airport, was screened Wednesday night at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C., where film subjects Joan Gaudet, Bill Knight and Jerry Mundy, film director Aron Gaudet and producer Gita Pullapilly watched the movie with members of Congress.

The next night, the movie played at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, also in Washington, D.C., for military members and their families.

What happened Friday, however, may have surpassed all of that.

In a series of events none of those connected with the film ever expected, the group of five had a chance to meet with Vice President Joe Biden during a special tour of the White House. It was a moment Joan Gaudet still can’t believe happened.

“I never thought in my whole life I’d be near that close to the vice president,” Bradley resident Gaudet said Sunday. “It kind of blows your mind.”

Biden met with the group in his office for about 30 minutes. During the meeting, Pullapilly said, he praised the three troop greeters and talked about his son Beau Biden, who experienced a different group of troop greeters active in New Hampshire after he returned recently from military duty in Iraq.

“[Biden] talked about what the greeters really meant to him, how memorable it was, and the amazing impact that all three of the greeters were having on men and women all over the country,” Pullapilly said. “He went up to Mrs. Gaudet, touched her cheek, and said, ‘Each and every one of you is so special.’ It was just so awesome.”

Joan Gaudet said she was charmed by the vice president, who is from Delaware.

“It was so easy talking with him,” she said. “It almost made it feel like he was an old friend you knew forever.”

The vice president apparently was so taken with the group that he gave them parting gifts with the vice presidential seal. The women each received a charm bracelet and the men each received a set of cuff links.

Biden isn’t the only one to have been touched by the troop greeters. The film has won awards at several film festivals and earned rave reviews for Pullapilly and Old Town native Aron Gaudet, who is Joan Gaudet’s son.

Biden didn’t attend the Capitol Hill showing, but his wife, Jill Biden, made remarks before the film was screened.

Joan Gaudet chatted with Jill Biden that night. Jill Biden told Joan Gaudet about her son, and Gaudet told Biden about her two grandchildren who returned home safely in January from their military service.

The next day, after the Walter Reed screening, Pullapilly was shocked to receive an e-mail from the White House asking if the group would like a tour of the landmark. After a series of e-mails and text messages, the tour was set.

On Friday morning the group met with Kirsten White, a Maine native who was named in March as Jill Biden’s policy director. They were shown around the White House, and eventually the three troop greeters, along with Aron Gaudet and Pullapilly, were shown into Biden’s office waiting area. They were told the vice president was eager to meet with them, which he reiterated during their meeting.

“He told us [his wife] went home and kept talking about [the Maine greeters],” Joan Gaudet said. “He decided he wanted to meet us himself.”

It was a full trip for Joan Gaudet, Knight and Mundy. Joan Gaudet also had a chance to sit in a television control room and accompanied her son to a meeting in the AARP offices.

“It was just an amazing few days,” she said. “It’s not all sinking in, I think. I just never, never thought I’d be here. How does this happen?”

For information on “The Way We Get By,” go to www.thewaywegetbymovie.com.

jbloch@bangordailynews.net

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