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The Way We Get By

Released: 2009

Genre: Documentary

Runtime: 1 hr 24 min

MPAA Rating: G

Director: Aron Gaudet

Starring: Bill Knight, Joan Gaudet, Jerry Mundy

Aging veterans greet soldiers returning home from Iraq.

Stirring and frankly quite patriotic.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 8 years ago

"Our boys got a raw deal when they came back from Vietnam," an aging World War II veteran says in THE WAY WE GET BY, a poignant and lovingly constructed documentary by Aron Gaudet. The documentary, which works successfully on several levels, follows a group of "troop greeters" who do their volunteer work at the Bangor, Maine airport. This airport, being the eastern most one in the country, has the largest number of arrivals and departures of troops fighting the Iraq War.

The film can be appreciated on at least three levels. First, and most obvious, it follows troop greeters and shows the dedication of these octogenarians and nonagenarians who go out in the middle of freezing cold Maine nights to say hello or goodbye to the American troops who bravely fight for us.

Eschewing politics, the film rarely touches on whether the Iraq War was a good idea or not. Instead, it takes it as a given that our soldiers are there, so the question is how best should we honor them. And, even though it doesn't wear its politics on its sleeve, it is quite a patriotic picture.

The film works on a second level, of course, in showing how much the soldiers appreciate the dedication and sincerity of the troop greeters and how they feel about their mission in the Armed Services of our country. The greeters are there to do more than shake hands and express their appreciation. They are also there to offer support, however they can, from free cell phone usage to being someone the soldiers can talk to. The boundless goodwill and honest generosity of the greeters is palpable.

The final and ultimately the deepest level of the movie is its examination of the lives of the aging veterans of World War II and of the almost forgotten Korean War. Some of them are coping okay logistically and emotionally. But the one who provokes the strongest outpouring of sympathy from the audience is a guy who lives in squalor. Literally bankrupting himself feeding his very large brood of cats, his lack of financial sense is matched by his inability to cope with the upkeep of his house. Easily the saddest scene in the documentary for me was watching him walk on the floor of his house which was covered in hundreds of empty cat food cans.

But mainly the movie is an upbeat one with stirring and frankly quite patriotic images of old soldiers holding up signs such as "Welcome Home Heroes!" to greet the young warriors returning home from the battlefield.

Although the greeters realize that their time on this earth is coming to a close, they approach their mortality with a positive attitude and a good dose of humor. "Everybody's got to die sometime," one vet says with an infectiously happy grin. "Nobody got out of this world alive yet."

THE WAY WE GET BY runs 1:24. The film is not yet rated but would probably be rated G and would be acceptable for all ages.