It happens on Tuesdays from 8 to 9 a.m. on Main Street in a coastal Maine village.
A trio of retired housemates — Carmen Footer, Elaine Greene, and JoAnn Miller — wear coordinating outfits, wave American flags, and accept supportive honks from passing drivers. What began as a spontaneous act of patriotism in the days following 9/11 has turned into a way of life for the Freeport Flag Ladies, as they call themselves.
When troops went to Afghanistan and then Iraq, the women expanded their mission. Almost weekly, they drive more than two hours to the airport in Bangor to send off soldiers or greet those returning home, snapping pictures all the while. The photos are uploaded to freeportflagladies.com and treasured by relatives across the country. “The grateful e-mails we receive from families are what gives us the faith to go on,” Greene says.
The three women forgo vacations, movies, and dinners out and use their money to buy presents for the troops: toiletries, candy, and whimsical toys (Hot Wheels are a favorite). Soldiers stationed in Afghanistan also ask for school supplies they can hand out to local children. “We like to send things that make them smile,” Greene explains, “and show them that America cares.”