Vendors vs. Veterans

Here's a little story out of my hometown. A little background - after the first Gulf War, some veterans in Maine thought it would be nice to greet the troops coming back from that conflict. Many of them were Vietnam Vets who still remember the less-than-warm welcome they received upon coming home, and wanted to give today's vets a better memory.

The idea really took off. According to the organization's website, the troop greeters have met over 400,000 troops and provided free cell phones, cookies and hugs.

I've been at the airport when some vets have returned and watched the greeters at work and the response of the troops. It's pretty moving stuff.

Thanks to some bureaucrats at the Bangor International Airport, the troop greeters will no longer be able to provide a taste of home to troops coming home from the war.

Homemade treats long provided by the areaís volunteer Maine Troop Greeters disappeared at the airport about a month ago after BIA began enforcing a ban on such giveaways.

"I think I speak for most everybody when I say I think itís very sad we cannot do it," greeter Gary Mock of Hampden said Tuesday. "The cookies, candy and everything we have here is all in support of the troops and to thank them."

Some greeters grumble that the rules changed because of jealous airport vendors, but BIA blames liability and strict rules that must be followed by airport concessionaires.

Liability and rules. Because you just know some guy coming home from Iraq will sue the pants off some lady who made him cookies if he gets sick.

Not sure I buy the thing about airport concessionaires, either. The troop greeters aren't selling this food, they're giving it away. Different circumstances, different rules, right? To be honest, though, it's hard to tell exactly why they did this, considering all the excuses used by BIA assistant director Tony Caruso:

Tony Caruso, the airportís assistant director, said Tuesday the issue revolves around liability. "We have people who bake things at home, and that is very hard to regulate."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has strict regulations on preparation, temperature control and handling that all airport concessionaires must adhere to, Caruso said. Ensuring that all food is properly prepared and stored is a safety and security issue, he said...

He said the airport wanted to make sure it did not violate any contracts it has with concessionaires, since they hold the exclusive agreement to provide food to travelers.

So which is it?

Safety and security? Liability? Or respect for concessionaires? I'm thinking the latter...

Next door to the troop greeter room in the airport is the Red Baron Restaurant and Coffee Shop. No managers returned phone calls Tuesday.

The city and BIA officials have vowed to hold a meeting in the near future with the airport concessionaires and troop greeters to devise an agreement and outline foods that greeters can provide, Caruso said.

Wait...if it's about liability or safety and security, why allow greeters to provide any food at all? Why get the vendors involved in creating an "agreement?" If this were about following USDA or FAA regulations, one would think the conversations would take place between the regulators, the airport and the troop greeters. There's no reason to include the vendors if compliance with federal regulations is the explanation.

It seems to me some angry vendors see every veteran eating a donated cookie as money out of their pockets. Since they've won this battle, I hope they at least have the decency to offer the troops a free cup of coffee or something.

Oh, I'm sorry...would that be a liability issue?

Posted by: Slublog at 07:02 PM


1 "Oh, I'm sorry...would that be a liability issue?"
Everything's a liability issue. Including this post.

Posted by: The Lawyers at June 20, 2007 07:10 PM (6GK9U)

2 Yeah, what the lawyah said.

Posted by: Editor at June 20, 2007 07:13 PM (SJCkB)

3 "We have people who bake things at home, and that is very hard to regulate."
Oh well shit. Gotta ban what you can't regulate...Otherwise

Posted by: Entropy at June 20, 2007 07:15 PM (HgAV0)

4 Damn new commnets thingy to hell.
Otherwise people might start to get ideas.

Posted by: Entropy at June 20, 2007 07:15 PM (HgAV0)

5 there anything they can't do?

Posted by: jadedinga at June 20, 2007 07:17 PM (7sojD)

6 I don't know that it's such a bad idea closing that down though...there are so many nut-roots out there that would get a kick out of giving rat poison laced cookies to the troops.
Imagine surviving all the suicide bombers to get poisoned by a lefty at home?

Posted by: Moby at June 20, 2007 07:28 PM (4jqNG)

7 STFU and GTFO, apparently.

Posted by: Techie at June 20, 2007 07:28 PM (T+8Gr)

Posted by: Moby at June 20, 2007 07:28 PM (4jqNG)

In Maine, there definitely are some moonbats, but if it hasn't happened yet, I don't think it will. These troop greeters are a tight-knit bunch - they'd be able to figure out something like that pretty quick.

Posted by: Slublog at June 20, 2007 07:31 PM (sEAQW)


"We have people who bake things at home, and that is very hard to regulate."
not impossible.....just very hard...

fuck these cheesedick little gutless bureaucrats right up their regulatory orifices

Posted by: jadedinga at June 20, 2007 07:33 PM (7sojD)

10 Yeah, but it only takes once. Give the troops cash instead

Posted by: Moby at June 20, 2007 07:33 PM (4jqNG)

11 Give the troops cash instead

great thought but I'm sure that liability.....I mean security...I mean regulatory issues will come into play

OTOH you may be right and they might go for cash...they can't directly tax chocolate chip cookies

Posted by: jadedinga at June 20, 2007 07:38 PM (7sojD)

12 No, I buy the liability rules bit. I have no doubt that the FDA and a dozen other alphabet bureaus were ready to descend on the airport for their health code violations and so on. That's how the nanny state works, just ask Mayor Bloomberg.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at June 20, 2007 07:40 PM (wmgz8)

13 Slu -

Is there a USO inside or nearby the airport ? The donations for the returning troops fits their operation, and the courageous minions of the airport authority would be much less likely have issues with an organization of that size .

Posted by: jadedinga at June 20, 2007 07:52 PM (78CJu)

14 fuck these cheesedick little gutless bureaucrats right up their regulatory orifices
Sorry, but that would be very hard to regulate.

Posted by: Entropy at June 20, 2007 07:54 PM (HgAV0)

15 jadedinga - I'm not sure if the USO is involved or not. I believe it's mostly a VFW and American Legion-led effort, and has been for years.

Posted by: Slublog at June 20, 2007 07:54 PM (sEAQW)

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at June 20, 2007 07:40 PM (wmgz

I thought that might be the case, until I saw the final quote by Caruso - that they were willing to negotiate which food items were acceptable with the vendors, not with regulators.

Posted by: Slublog at June 20, 2007 07:55 PM (sEAQW)

17 At any rate...
Anyone remember them pulling the same bullshit on a church that was feeding homeless people somewherea year or so ago?
You got a bunch of guys eating of a trashcan, apparently, but when the church was giving them free meals cooked up by people in the church kitchen and in their own kitchens, the health department shut them down.

Posted by: Entropy at June 20, 2007 07:56 PM (HgAV0)

18 Sad. I remember the wonderful people that met us at the airport in New York, LA and Honolulu when I came home from the Gulf War. Wonderful, thoughtful people there at 2:30 in the morning to make sure someone was there to greet us. My attitude towards NYC as a bunch of arrogant pricks died that night. Salt of the earth folks. In LA a drunk salesman used his company card to buy my battalion a beer. I've always hoped he didn't get shitcanned for that. It seemed kind of surreal to carry my SAW through the airport. Finally we were met at Hickam AFB by a group of wonderful community members, and base families. I was and am grateful to them all. Many of us then and now are the kids of Vietnam veterans and they made damn sure that we didn't have to take what they did. I also shouldn't leave out the flight crews who took us over, we flew united both ways. They were all volunteer crews, they were all veteran/veteran family/ or even crewmembers who had flown people to Vietnam. They were all senior ranking folks. Their feelings for us were completely genuine, concern for us on the way, and happiness that we were returning. Patriotism wasn't just a word for these people, they fucking lived it. I will be grateful for them til the day they throw dirt in my face.

Posted by: Carl Hungus at June 20, 2007 07:57 PM (bWkaR)

19 My mom hates baking, she likes cooking, but she hates baking, but when I was in oki, she would ship out abot 30 (maybe an exaggeration) pounds of different types of cookies, and other baked goods (and always a bible, there was ALWAYS a bible.) My friends would flock to my room for their ration of mom's cookies.
oh, one more thing, not only did she hate baking, she wasn't very good at it, but still my friends loved having a little taste of home. Just like our rather ritualized celebrations of birthdays and holidays.

Posted by: Wickedpinto at June 20, 2007 08:05 PM (QTv8u)

20 Private citizens giving food to other private citizens who are free to reject it. No liability issue here... nothingto regulate.

Posted by: AndrewsDad at June 20, 2007 08:15 PM (M6i6H)

21 some veterans in Maine thought it would be nice
These troop greeters are a tight-knit bunch
I believe it's mostly a VFW and American Legion-led effort, and has been for years.
Many of us then and now are the kids of Vietnam veterans
They were all volunteer crews, they were all veteran/veteran family/ or even crewmembers who had flown people to Vietnam.
My mom
I just read this today:

Posted by: Entropy at June 20, 2007 08:20 PM (HgAV0)

22 Why not just hand out unopened retail bags of cookies, chips and cans or bottles of soda? Then we'd know if it was the concessionaires. I'd be more than willing to send some $ to donate. If the concessionaires didn't balk then someone else would have some explaining to do.

Posted by: Bullwinkle at June 20, 2007 08:30 PM (Trfyl)

23 Maybe, if nothing else, the greeters can hand out coupons or gift certificatesfor local concessionaires. It kind of sucks, but at least it's something.

Posted by: adolfo_velasquez at June 20, 2007 08:37 PM (/7d1B)

24 The liability thing with the FDA has to be smoke screen for the business. The regulations, if they exit, apply to food that is to be sold to people at the airport. If they were to logically apply these regulations based on their premise, then no one could bring home-prepared food into the airport, even for themselves.

Don't bring up the security issues. This deals with the area outside of the security zone of the airport. Cuz that's where the greeters are located at.

Is BIA banning all food from getting into the airport, except by the local restaurants? I don't think so.

Posted by: Dave in San Diego at June 20, 2007 08:39 PM (hVtol)

25 I'm a nail biter, I would rather eat home baked goods offered as thanks, than touch one of those revelation like books that goddamn moony's try to force into your hand.
Though I won't eat the book, I'm a nail biter, It's a disgusting habbit, but well, I have it, so touching one of those books covered in the nasty incense and the greasy fingers of those disgusting fucks is okay, but enjoying a nummy nummy cook or finger cakeis off limits.

Posted by: Wickedpinto at June 20, 2007 08:41 PM (QTv8u)

26 They can always start handing out $25 Target cards or Kroger cards or Walmart cards.
In fact, the veterans groups should co-ordinate with a national vendor that can stand up and take the heat and use its clout to fight the legal pinheads.
It's a win-win-win situation.

Posted by: Dogstar at June 20, 2007 08:49 PM (QwE8h)

27 Entropy,

Here's the closest link to the food donation ban I could find.

Posted by: someone2 at June 20, 2007 09:04 PM (aJj0f)

28 Yah I heard that (after public outcry) officials reconsidered the decision.
But only after theydid it in the first place and got lambasted for it.

Posted by: Entropy at June 20, 2007 09:12 PM (HgAV0)

Having just come back from nagging nannyville, I'm not very inclined to buy the "official explanation" as it were. It's just a ploy to regulate every aspect of daily life. And people wonder why life is so sterile these days????

Posted by: someone2 at June 20, 2007 09:13 PM (aJj0f)

30 Exactly. Every little "compromise" on these things (like vouchers for store bought stuff) is one more step on the road to abandoning ourselves to nagging nannyville.

Posted by: someone2 at June 20, 2007 09:15 PM (aJj0f)

31 Slublog...asI have noted before I am in Maine too. And believe me, I am one misplaced Texan. However,I find that 99% of the people here (even ifsome are moonbats) are genuinely good folks, like the Maine Troop Greeters. The dipshits that run BIA are gonna hear about this ill-advised stunt. After I post this, I am gonna email WLOB-Portland and WVOM-Bangor and apprise them of this travesty. I shallalso email Senators Snowe and Collins and tell them what the fuck is going on. AND I am gonna fire off a note to the Head Buttfuck at BIA and give him the lowdown on how nice it will be to fly out ofPORTLANDback to Texas for a visit. Such disrespect for our troops WILL NOT go un-noticed from this Redneck.

Posted by: FishFearMe at June 20, 2007 09:32 PM (ScVon)

32 Add the Kennebec Journal and Bangor Daily News to that list of media to be notified.

Posted by: FishFearMe at June 20, 2007 09:34 PM (ScVon)

Posted by: FishFearMe at June 20, 2007 09:32 PM (ScVon)

Agreed. I'm a fellow Texan who found himself in Maine, but I love it here. It's a state full of good people with good hearts - with the notable exception, perhaps, of the governor - who's a nice guy with bad ideas.

I'm hoping people contact BIA to express their displeasure with this decision.

And in the rare occasions that I'm forced to get on an airplane, I usually fly out of Manchester.

Posted by: Slublog at June 20, 2007 09:37 PM (sEAQW)

34 What part of Maine are you from, BTW?

Posted by: Slublog at June 20, 2007 09:39 PM (sEAQW)

35 I am in Augusta. If I could cut down the trees in my back yard, I could see the State House from home. BTW, I will be in Manchester next week to hit up Longfellow's Greenhouse for some veggies and flowers for the garden ( I already have tomatoes and peppers in the ground). Anyway, lemme know what else I can do to bring this incident to the attention of The Powers That Be and I'll be happy to raise a little hell on this end.

Posted by: FishFearMe at June 20, 2007 09:50 PM (ScVon)

36 Sounds like you've already raised plenty of hell with the right people.

Augusta, huh? I get to visit your fine city tomorrow for a work meeting. Nothing like an hour and a half drive to start the day.

Posted by: Slublog at June 20, 2007 09:54 PM (sEAQW)

37 Sounds like they were interfering with someone's kick backs.

Posted by: Stormy70 at June 20, 2007 10:16 PM (Y+o71)

38 Sounds like they were interfering with someone's kick backs.

Posted by: Wickedpinto at June 20, 2007 10:53 PM (QTv8u)

39 I suggest handing out gift cards to some local food-source which does NOT have a concession at the Airport. I also hope the greeters are eating at home, and not at the airport.

Posted by: Rich at June 20, 2007 11:05 PM (klh7l)

40 I guess it was these folks that met my battalion in the Bangor Airport on the way back from the Gulf War. This was back in the day before the intarweb and such, so I don't know exactly how they knew our flight schedule (heck, I didn't even know when I was flying out of theater until a day before), but man were they there in numbers!

I'd never felt so humbled and appreciated in all my life, before or since.

Yankees ain't exactly my bag, but those are some great, great people, and I'll never, ever forget the folks of Bangor, Maine so long as I live.

Posted by: Oedipus at June 20, 2007 11:07 PM (ZMS4j)

41 I work 2 jobs, a law firm and a MLB stadium. At both places, when there is leftover food, it is to be dumped into the trash, no exceptions. No picking at the leftovers for the peons. Obviously, the food wasted at the stadium is infinitely greater than at my smallish law firm, but the principle remains the same.

Posted by: Dr. Remulak at June 20, 2007 11:10 PM (J+D2d)

42 Not only do the troops appreciate the greeters at the Bangor Airport, so do their loved ones. I could not be there, but they were there for my son two years ago, doing exactly what I would have done, giving him homemade goodies and a phone call. After a year of not crying, it all broke loose with relief when I received that phone call at three in the morning. I still cry when I tell friends about those wonderful people. I will avoid the Bangor Airport at all costs, and if I must use it I will spent no money there. I will carry my own food or go hungry.

Posted by: Carol at June 20, 2007 11:23 PM (RuB/d)

43 Bangor International Airport: 1-866-359-2264

Posted by: BD at June 20, 2007 11:30 PM (Tc/6b)

44 How terrible. We just recently raised 400k+ for USO operations at the Dallas Fort Worth airport for ice cream bars and whatnot for our heroes returning. Sounds like the citizens of Bangor Maine need to make their wishes to the public airport known.

Posted by: dude at June 20, 2007 11:35 PM (VwJDA)

45 Question:

What if the airline fears someone who, say, subscribes to a hypothetical religion that emphasizes peace above all else, might poison one of the returning vets?

Posted by: ace at June 20, 2007 11:36 PM (1UCRY)

46 What if the airline is worried that all the additional people in the airport -- 99% with wonderful motives, of course -- will make it easier for someone, who, to make up something completely insane, believes that a hypothetical prophet wants him to kill unbelievers, to evade security?

What if the airline isn't able to forthrightly admit these concerns due to, again, just indulging in some right-brain "imagineering" here, a viciously stupid politically correct code forbidding the expression of real and tangible security concerns involving certain people?

Posted by: ace at June 20, 2007 11:39 PM (1UCRY)

47 The greeters should request the airport to state their income from military landing fees, ramp use and all other airport services, plus their commissions on military sales of fuel and all other services by private airport vendors. It's a VERY large amount. With less than 1% of that, the greeters could put up a large tent outside and give a full barbecued steak dinner, plus cookies, pie and drinks to every arriving service person, every day - and still have money left over.

Shame on you, Bangor, and your lawyers.

Posted by: David in Canada at June 20, 2007 11:57 PM (EGYap)

48 BIA Director Rebecca Hupp:

They need to know that they have touched a nerve in people all over the country.

Oh, and the NYT picked up the story.

Posted by: BD at June 21, 2007 12:18 AM (Tc/6b)

49 The "liability" they are referring to are the "breach of contract" threats they are surely receiving from the vendors. You are meant to think that it is liability for the food. That is lawyer-speak. How do I know? Because I am a scumbag lawyer.

Posted by: Brian at June 21, 2007 12:50 AM (zAQ9h)

50 Could someone post a list of food vendors at BIA? Maybe some pressure at the corporate level is in order.

Posted by: John Stephens at June 21, 2007 01:07 AM (5zNsF)

51 >That is lawyer-speak. How do I know? Because I am a scumbag lawyer.
And an unusually candid one, too.

Posted by: sf at June 21, 2007 01:16 AM (9ilOO)

52 The "oh no they might poison the free cookies" defense is BULLSHIT.

It would be easier for Osama's helper to just get a job at one of the legit businesses. They know when the troops come in.

Posted by: PJ at June 21, 2007 01:37 AM (6z/+8)

53 I gotta say, I don't really blame Bangor for doing this. The phone calls and the welcoming citizens are waht really makes this sort of thing great. It is part of the business model for that airport to sell food, and the soldiers can afford to spend their money.

I wouldn't want this to happen to my business. Surely there was a better way to handle it (We'll provide free coffee and cheapo cookies for you or something)... but I don't really have a problem with the airport protecting its lessees.

Posted by: PJ at June 21, 2007 01:40 AM (6z/+8)

54 What a bunch of asses:
Now let them know by using this:
or call them:
287 Godfrey BoulevardBangor, ME 04401USA
Tel: 207-992-4600Fax: 207-945-3607Toll free: 1-866-fly-bangor or 1-866-359-2264SITA: BGRCBXH

Posted by: Bob at June 21, 2007 07:21 AM (OLQku)

55 What right does the airport have to prevent people from freelygiving and receiving gifts, no matter what the gifts are?
This is bullshit. If I were one of the greeters I'd completely disregard that intrusive little edict.

Posted by: lauraw at June 21, 2007 08:14 AM (DbybK)

56 @ Entropy: Okay, let's say I'm leaving from Bangor Int'l Airport, I make a sandwich to eat at the airport before I get on the plane. This is a liability issue, I could have used Salinas lettuce and got a bad strain of E. coli. Would my homemade sandwich be banned? And after 400,000 returning warriors, has there been one, just one complaint to the airport?

I can understand the concessionaires, they're paying for an exclusive right to sell their products at the airport. Let's look at it from a marketing point of view. Who would more likely want to hang around the airport after arriving from overseas:
1. A soldier welcomed home, and given a chocolate chip cookie, who I think may get pangs of hunger stimulated by the cookie, or
2. A soldier coming to the airport alone and being sent on his way without a cookie?

As a sales/marketing guy, I'd go with the flow. I'd put up welcome home American Heroes banners and offer discounts to our warriors coming home. Why be sour about it?

Posted by: Jabba the Tutt at June 21, 2007 08:15 AM (M0h+m)

57 The airport's web site has a section devoted to the Troop Greeters! And they want to end this practice? Idiots.
<a href="">

Posted by: Raven at June 21, 2007 08:34 AM (PVe7k)

58 So what this all boils down to is this: it's forbidden for one private citizen to give an edible gift to another private citizen on the Bangor airport grounds.

Does that about sum things up?

What's to keep an AoSHQ lifestyler, who doesn't belong to the "Maine Troop Greeters" in any official manner, from going to the airport with a tin of homemade cookies and offering them to arriving troops?

Posted by: Oedipus at June 21, 2007 09:57 AM (ZMS4j)

59 I've come home through Bangor twice. The first time was the middle of the night (about 0230) from Kosovo in November 2001. Not a huge deal, but the snack bar was open. Had a lobster roll and a large Mountain Dew.
Now the second time, broad daylight in Feb. 2004, forget it. That lobby was packed like Mardi Gras. WWII vets offering us the use of their cell phones, candy, cookies, Cokes, all with cheering and flag-waving. It was one of the nicer moments of my life. I should have known some combination of Big Guvmint and Big Business would go out of their way to fuck it all up.
And they wonder why so many combat vets are getting more disgruntled AFTER we came home.

Posted by: SGT Dan at June 21, 2007 10:19 AM (jCQ+I)

60 The troop greeters of Bangor are the salt of the goddamned earth. When I came back from Iraq in 2003, I was exhausted in every way, both body and soul. The first civilian American standing on American soil I layed eyes on was a Bangor troop greeter. She put a real Coke in my hand (you can't get real Cokes in Iraq. They're made in Egypt with a different formula.) and I'm at a loss for words how much this simple gesture restored my spirit.

The security concerns expressed in the comments above are legitimate, but misplaced. Bangor is tiny! This ain't LAX or DFW where anonymity might allow a kook to slip rat poison into the cookie supply.

Posted by: Kadnine at June 21, 2007 11:06 AM (9AJic)

61 As I recall, WWII soldiers were routinely met at every train and bus station in the US, where they received free food and drink from local citizens who stood out in all kinds of weather to make sure "our boys" got a taste of home while traveling too or from their eventual duty station. It's a damn good thing lawyers hadn't gotten around to poisoning the environment at the time.

And furthermore, if it weren't for the WOT, there would be a veritable trickle of traffic through that airport as opposed to the traffic now moving through that place. Those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are protecting those same vendors from our enemies in time of war and all they can think about is making a buck of these people? How disgusting is that? In my mind, that makes them little more than greedy war profiteers?

Please post a list of the vendors if and when you receive one as I'd like to make sure that list and this story gets into as many hands as possible.

Posted by: vtxpilot at June 21, 2007 12:54 PM (zvNCm)

62 Let us know the vendors.

Posted by: austin at June 21, 2007 04:11 PM (s6AOg)

63 I live in Bangor, and I recently stopped over in Bangor while returning home from the Middle East. To answer Austin's question, the vendors (and really, we're talking 3 vendors if you count the bookstore) are all of the mom and pop local variety. The Red Baron Restaurant and Coffee Shop, which is basically a glorified snack bar, plus a lounge. Possibly operated by the same company. The lounge, to its credit, offers discounts on beer (a hot commodity, at least when my unit came through... the majority of the people on my flight spent the entire ground stop in the lounge).

The other thing to note is that the snack bar--the only vendor in any way "competing" with free cookies and brownies--is pretty small. If a flight of, say, 350 troops came through, they would be hard pressed to serve 1/10 of those troops in the hour or so most flights are on the ground. So I really doubt that they were suffering financial harm from a few free cookies. They're getting their maximum capacity of customers anyway.

Nobody I've talked to around town in the last couple of days has the slightest bit of support or even comprehension of the airport's actions in this matter. I suspect there will be a raft of letters to the editor showing up in the Bangor Daily News shortly, and I would bet that the airport management has already fielded a number of disappointed phone calls from local citizens. I just can't imagine why they would want to take the tremendous amount of goodwill and positive publicity that the Troop Greeters have earned for our town and risk it with a ridiculous stunt like this.

Posted by: BD at June 21, 2007 05:20 PM (Tc/6b)

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