Dick & Mary Ellen Hostettler welcoming the troops home at BWI airport.
Dick & Mary Ellen Hostetter welcoming the troops home at BWI airport.

There are hundreds of veterans within the Liberty family of services – both on our staff and among those that we serve in the community. On this Veterans Day, we’d like to tell you about the Hostetter’s and how they are paying tribute to our servicemen and women at The Village of Penn State, our university-based retirement community in State College.

Neither Dick or Mary Ellen, nor their three children ever served in the military. But for the last few years, the retired couple has devoted their time and energy to honoring the troops. It started back in 2009 when the couple, then living in Maryland, went to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) to welcome their daughter and her husband home from a missionary trip in Nigeria. While they were waiting for the passengers to depart the plane, the Hostetter’s couldn’t help but notice the large crowd gathered to welcome troops coming home from Afghanistan.

“I still tear up when I think about it. To see these guys and gals and not knowing what they’ve been through,” Dick recalls.

“It hit us hard. We wanted to be a part of it,” Mary Ellen added.

(BWI photos courtesy Operation Welcome Home Maryland Facebook page)

They got involved with Operation Welcome Home Maryland immediately. BWI is one of three airports in the U.S. in which military servicemen and women first arrive from overseas, the couple explained. For the next two years, the Hostetter’s went to BWI as many as four times a week to welcome the troop’s home. It wasn’t uncommon for the flights to arrive in the middle of the night and as retirees, Dick and Mary Ellen, say it was easier for them to greet the soldiers at that hour, then younger folks who had jobs and families.

“They (troops) were shocked to see us there so early in the morning,” Dick remembers with a smile. “We even scheduled our doctor’s appointments around the flights,” he says.

The Hostetter’s and other Operation Welcome Home Maryland volunteers were often joined by other community groups such as the girl scouts, boy scouts and motorcycle clubs, all there with signs, cheers, handshakes, hugs and goody bags with snacks. Dick and Mary Ellen say they witnessed marriage proposals, fathers meeting their babies for the first time, and many joyous family reunions.

“When a soldier sees his baby for the first time after a year and a half… quite a sacrifice in my book,” Dick says.

(BWI photos courtesy Operation Welcome Home Maryland Facebook page)

The couple moved to The Village in 2011 and quickly discovered how dearly they missed their involvement in Operation Welcome Home Maryland. So they started organizing card-making parties.

card making 2

Held a few times a year, the events allow the Hostetter’s and their neighbors to create cards with well-wishes to the men and women serving our country. During a recent party, Dick, age 80, Mary Ellen, age 79, and a group of Village residents created more than 220 cards out of construction paper, stickers and markers. The cards are sent to Operation Welcome Home Maryland, who then gives them to the soldiers.

“These people are keeping us safe,” says Mary Ellen.

The Liberty Family extends our gratitude to veterans and all of the men and women currently serving our country.

Happy Veterans Day!


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