Maureen Kermode has been on a mission for years, simply to say ‘Welcome Home’ to Connecticut troops.
Kermode, Vernon resident, has been a military wife for 15 years. Her mission is to have a “Welcome Home” message posted on highway message boards when troops come home.
Her fight began in 2004. At that time, Kermode’s husband was returning from a 14-month tour in Iraq, along with 225 other soldiers from the Connecticut National Guard AVRCRAD. Kermode called the Department of Transportation to request the message and was told it was not allowed.
She was disappointed but not defeated. Instead, she, with the help of friends and family, painted, “Welcome Home CT AVRCRAD” onto bed sheets and hung them on the overpasses from the state line in Enfield all the way to Groton.
Kermode tried again in 2008, while her husband was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. This time, Maureen gathered hundreds of names on a petition. She wanted the welcome home signs to be there for his unit when they returned. But again the DOT denied her request.
Then Kermode contacted my office for help.
Immediately I thought it was a fantastic idea. As a veteran myself, I know that reminding the troops that their sacrifice is not forgotten is the very least we can do. I introduced Senate Bill 714: AN ACT REQUIRING THE DISPLAY OF "WELCOME HOME" MESSAGES FOR RETURNING CONNECTICUT MILITARY UNITS ON OVERHEAD HIGHWAY SIGN BOARDS. Maureen Kermode came to Hartford and passionately testified before the State Transportation Committee, urging its members to pass the bill.
Maureen told legislators, “Our troops deserve no less than an inspiring homecoming each and every time they return home. The simple act of placing a ‘Welcome Home’ message on our highway signs will let the soldiers know that Connecticut appreciates them and is grateful they are home safe.” After her compelling testimony, the bill passed the Transportation Committee unanimously.
There have been other uses of the highway message boards that were allowed, so why not hers? As Maureen pointed out to the legislators, “If we can congratulate the UConn teams, then we can certainly thank our soldiers.”
I agree and I am hopeful we do the right thing.
Maureen came to the State Senate to watch the vote on her bill. It was an inspiration for all the senators to have her in the chamber. We await action from the House and the governor but I am hopeful that the bill will become law before our next soldiers return home.