It's still pretty cold in Maine – with the mercury dipping to 28 degrees in the darkest night. But that doesn't keep one band of hearty New Englanders from its appointed rounds – at the Bangor airport, where a plane full of U.S. troops on their way home from Iraq is arriving at 2 in the morning.
They're the Maine Greeters – citizens of all ages, some veterans – who make it their business to be on hand at the airport to cheer, hug and shake the hands of the returning military men and women, thanking them for their service.
They've had plenty of practice, as Bangor is a major stop-off point for this war. Nearly 300,000 U.S. troops have passed through Bangor since the war in Iraq started three years ago. It's the last refueling point in the U.S. as they head overseas to war. And the first place they see on the way home.
The first voices they hear are those of the Maine Greeters, waving flags and banners as they line up, reception-line style, to deliver their message.
"Welcome to Bangor, Devil Dog!" "Welcome to Bangor, Hoo-rah!"
The goal of the Maine Greeters, reports CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts, is simple: Make sure the troops receive the kind of greeting that Vietnam vets did not.
That will be done, says greeter Bill Knight, regardless of what time of day the troops happen to turn up – flying out, or heading home.
"I can sleep when I don't have troops," said Knight, bright-eyed in the wee hours in the airport.