(Host) Most of the nearly 200 members of the Maine National Guard who helped with post-Irene clean up left Vermont two weeks ago. But 13 soldiers remained in Rutland with their much-needed heavy equipment.
They left for home Friday morning and as VPR’s Nina Keck reports, dozens of local residents gathered to see them off.
(Crowd) "Here they come!"
(Keck) It was just after 7 a.m., but the crowd of parents and school children was anything but sleepy.
They waved flags and signs and cheered as a half dozen National Guard trucks pulled into traffic behind a police escort.
It was the first leg on their six-hour drive home to Maine. Karen Pezzetti is a teacher at Rutland Town School.
(Pizzetti) "We’ve been serving dinner for the troops for the past three weeks and these are the 13 troops form Maine that stayed. They’re great guys. They’ve done so much for us. So we pulled this together about 8 o’clock last night and we just called parents and kids and, ‘Get some flags out and just celebrate that they were here to help us.’"
(Keck) Stan Blicharz, a guidance counselor at the school, stood nearby.
(Blicharz) "Well, we can’t let these men go home without showing our appreciation. We’ve been trying to serve them dinner in the night and breakfast in the morning. Spend some time with them so they feel like we care. And this is the best. It was worth every second being here."
(Keck) Maine sent 169 pieces of heavy equipment to Vermont – things like bulldozers, graders, excavators and smaller Bobcats.
Rutland City Mayor Chris Louras says having that extra equipment and manpower is what helped local contractors and the state repair Route 4 and the city’s water supply system so quickly.
(Louras) "I saw those Maine guys running every day, daisy chaining material in and out of my reservoir where it was stockpiled and then taking it and bringing it up here. And there weren’t the trucks available in the state to daisy chain the way those guys were doing it. So those Maine guys are aces in my book."
(Keck) As the last remaining trucks – about a half dozen of them – left for Maine this morning, a woman in the crowd smiled and said it’s fitting the Guard should drive home on Route 4 – a road they helped to fix.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.