Oct 25, 2011 11:45 PM by Maddie Garrett
With dusty boots and heavy packs, more than 300 men and women of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division arrived home Tuesday at the Alexandria International Airport. But before the bus ride back to Fort Polk where they're reunited with family, the soldiers go through debriefing. That's where 93-year-old Sara Simmonds comes in.
"It's so wonderful to see these people coming back, that's the heartfelt thing about it all," said Simmonds.
Since 2004, Simmonds and her "Apple Pie Brigade" have been sending off and welcoming soldiers home with a hot pie, cold drinks and warm smiles.
"They've been here the for the past three deployments I've been on, on the way there and on the way back giving us free pies and drinks. It's been great," said soldier Russell Whittaker.
Simmonds and the other volunteers have handed out over 24,000 pies and 1,500 gallons of sodas over the years. They are the first civilians to greet them, and the last to send them off.
"When they leave we're the last civilians to tell them goodbye and that's heartfelt because we know some of them might not come back," said Simmods.
Simmonds lost her husband in World War Two, and says her contribution is only a small one compared to what these soldiers give in service.
"They are I guess you could say the representation of the American Spirit, seeing them when we go out, when we come back, it makes some of the guys feel good knowing that at least somebody appreciates what we do," said soldier William Baumgartner.
"They'll never really know how much it means to us for them coming out and supporting us," said Whittaker.