On August 30th, 2016, eleven employees from NFM Lending’s corporate office attended an airport welcome event to greet military service members returning home from deployments, as part of the NFM Salute initiative.
The event was organized by Operation Welcome Home Maryland (OWHMD), an all-volunteer organization that greets service members at the Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the year. NFM employees worked alongside OWHMD volunteers, troops’ family members, and other volunteers to decorate the lobby with patriotic decorations and welcome signs; packed goody bags (containing water bottles, snacks, and handmade cards) for the troops because many are hungry, thirsty, and have to wait for connecting flights; and enjoyed heartfelt camaraderie as everyone waited for the troops to arrive. NFM provided water bottles and snacks as a small contribution.
Two NFM Lending Executive Team members were present at the event: Jan Ozga, President of NFM Lending, and Greg Sher, Chief Business Development Officer. Both Jan and Greg helped put items together for the goody bags, and met some amazing people while waiting to greet the troops. These included seniors with Veteran family members, a WWII and a Vietnam Veteran, and even a man named Nathanail who was waiting for his fiancée who was deployed in the Middle East.
The flight was delayed, but as the military service members began to make their way out through customs’ doors, cheers filled the lobby. With close to 100 people present, many service members seemed to be overwhelmed and overjoyed to see so many people cheering for them. OWHMD volunteers handed the service members their goody bags as they walked down the line, where volunteers and NFM employees thanked them for their service, shook their hands, and even gave them hugs.
“I think the event was heartfelt and very warming,” said Stephanie Jones, NFM employee. “It brought tears to my eyes as we greeted the troops, and they were very appreciative of our attendance. It made me appreciate life, my family, and my freedom. The handmade cards, the time taken to appreciate what they do for us, it’s the least we can do.”
NFM employees and Executive Team members even helped with some of the luggage bags and carts because a lot of the service members had animal crates, or more than one cart stacked with bags that they had to take over to the other side of the airport for their connecting flights.
“During our trip to the airport to welcome home our soldiers,” said Jan Ozga, “I spoke to a Veteran who was there to greet the troops with us. As we talked, he told me he was at Normandy during WWII on the second day. I couldn’t stop thinking about what he must have seen that day. I asked him about that day and he just shook his head and told me it was unbearable. I can’t imagine nor will I pretend to fathom the horror this man must have witnessed. I watched this man closely through the course of the day (he had also instantly become my hero) and the smile that erupted on his face when the troops were coming off the plane into the airport was priceless. Here is a man (50-60 years senior most of the soldiers we welcomed home) that continues to honor and show support to those whom make the ultimate sacrifice for our liberties and freedoms. Here is a guy that has never stopped giving back to this country, and his presence yesterday made it clear that he was going to give back until the bitter end.
“You leave something like this humbled. You definitely feel good about doing anything you can to show our brave men and women of our military some small token of gratitude. But truth be told, I left feeling inadequate. I left knowing that I need to do more…much, much more to show these folks how much they really mean.”
NFM will continue to work with OWHMD in their mission to help greet military service members returning from their deployment through friendly smiles and cheers.
NFM would like to give a special thank you to Hilton BWI for providing NFM employees travel to and from the airport.