On call 24 hours a day for the past five years, a group of senior citizens has made history by greeting more than 900,000 American troops at a tiny airport in Bangor, Maine. The Way We Get By, directed by Aron Gaudet and produced by Gita Pullapilly, is an intimate look at three of these greeters as they confront the universal losses that come with aging and rediscover their reason for living. Bill Knight, Jerry Mundy and Joan Gaudet find the strength to overcome their personal battles and transform their lives through service. This inspirational and surprising story shatters the stereotypes of today’s senior citizens as the greeters redefine the meaning of community.
The film reveals a remarkable symbiosis between the young soldiers’ fighting mission and the greeters’ fight to overcome infirmities and depression in making sure no soldier departs or returns without thanks. Regardless of their personal views about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the greeters, some of them veterans, turn out at all hours of the day and night to show their respect for the soldiers.
The Way We Get By companion website, http://www.pbs.org/pov/waywegetby, offers a streaming video trailer of the film; an extended interview with filmmaker Aron Gaudet; a list of related websites, partner organizations and books; downloadable discussion and facilitator guides; classroom activities; an update on the people in the film and these special features:
- Q&A with Joan, Jerry and Bill: Learn more about the volunteers and ask them questions during the week of broadcast via the PBS Engage website, www.pbs.org/engage;
- Photo Gallery of Troop Greeters: View images dating back to 2003;
- Support Our Troops Volunteering Map: Inspired by Joan, Jerry and Bill to show your support for the troops? Find volunteering opportunities in your community;
- Share Your Stories: Are you one of the (almost) one million soldiers who have been greeted by the Maine Troop Greeters? Or did you receive a phone call from your loved one from the Bangor Airport on one of their cell phones? Share your story;
- Tips on Best Ways to Support the Troops: Soldiers often need the most help after they leave the battlefield and return to civilian life. Join a group blog in which veterans, family members, psychologists and support staff offer stories and insights about the challenges returning veterans and their families face in work and daily life;
- Virtual Troop Greeting Posters: Join us in creating posters during the week of Nov. 9. Take photos with your posters and upload them to Flickr. Tag them #wegetby. POV will print out our favorites, add them to photo galleries on the POV and Returning Home (www.returninghomeproject.org) websites and hang them in the Maine Troop Greeters headquarters at the Bangor Airport.
Also On the Web
On Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, POV will launch Regarding War, www.pbs.org/pov/regardingwar, a new community website that will be a gathering place for personal stories and a platform for sharing perspectives about war, current and past. A group blog will feature conversations on changing topics; the first will be “Coming Home: Veterans Readjusting to Civilian Life.” Guest bloggers — including veterans, family members, psychologists, administrators from support organizations and others — will offer insights on the challenges returning vets face, and provide tips and resources on the kinds of support that families, friends and neighbors can offer veterans.
Regarding War is an extension of a previous POV website, Re: Vietnam (www.pbs.org/pov/stories), a companion site for the Academy Award-winning POV film Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision. The site was an early example of the Internet’s potential for community-building and open exchange. Re: Vietnam was named one of the “best sites” of 1996 by USA Today and was lauded by the press for opening dialogue online about the Vietnam War between disparate communities.
POV is also partnering with The Way We Get By filmmakers to promote the launch of Returning Home, www.returninghomeproject.org, an interactive website ensuring that American soldiers, both newly returned and those whose service ended many years ago, are not forgotten. Returning Home provides a place for Americans to share thoughts, photos, video and sound, along with messages of support.
Regarding War is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Returning Home is supported by CPB, ITVS and the John D & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Journalists can also download a number of additional materials for The Way We Get By — press releases, photos and filmmaker statement— in the POV Pressroom. Go there »