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March 26. 2013 6:48PM

At Pease, Sen. Ayotte delivers words of thanks to troops


Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., greets 95-year-old retired Marine and Pease Greeter Mac McLean at Pease International Tradeport Tuesday before welcoming troops. (GRETYL MACALASTER PHOTO)

PORTSMOUTH - U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte joined dozens of other Pease Greeters at Pease International Airport Tuesday afternoon to welcome a group of military members arriving home for a bit of rest and relaxation.

About 115 troops disembarked from a charter flight on its way to Atlanta to be greeted by Ayotte and then cheered through the gates of the airport to a reception area complete with telephones, coffee, snacks and stuffed animals to take home.

Ayotte spent a few minutes with the troops privately when they arrived. She said she thanked them for their service, and did not talk about policy issues, knowing they are anxious to get home to their families.

One Army chief received a family greeting from two nieces, a nephew, his mother-in-law and his sister-in-law.

Jen Mercer lives in Loudon and said she learned on Facebook Tuesday morning that her brother-in-law would be flying through Pease.

She decided to take the kids and her mom, visiting from Florida, to Portsmouth to greet him.

Tomorrow, Chief Walter Orison will fly the last leg home from Atlanta to Missouri, where he will be greeted by his wife and three sons.

He will have 15 days of leave before returning to Afghanistan. He has spent seven months on this tour of duty already and will return for another four months after his break.

This was Orsin's fourth time coming home on an R&R flight and the first time he has been greeted by anyone.

Ayotte took the opportunity during her visit to commend the Pease Greeters for their commitment to greeting every flight of deploying or returning troops that comes through Pease International Airport.

About 20 flights per month have been coming through Pease, Airport Manager Bill Hopper said, although only two are scheduled for April.

Ayotte said although active-duty troops are exempt from salary changes, she is concerned about the impact automatic budget cuts associated with sequestration could have on training, equipment and other things the military requires to perform their duties.

The Republican said she is hearing from military leaders through her position on the Senate Armed Forces Committee about the important support role civilian employees play in providing troops with the support and services they need.

Earlier in the day, Ayotte paid a visit to Medtronics, where she spoke about the Senate's recent vote to repeal a new excise tax on medical devices.

gmacalaster@newstote.com


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