Man The Rails: North Berwick Has Special Tradition for Veterans

Monday, March 14, 2016

If what is said is true, that you can't miss home until you actually leave it, then one Pratt & Whitney North Berwick Parts employee was reminded about the power of a well-planned homecoming.

"The plant really comes together when something like this occurs," said Scott Theriault, who is on the North Berwick Veteran's Council.

When Air Force veteran Patrick Petersen and his young family walked through a set of double doors that lead into the facility, they got a complete understanding of how much employees appreciate his sacrifice to his country. Petersen recently returned from a deployment in Qatar.

"(My kids) asked if I was nervous and I said, 'Absolutely!' But my son, he's like, 'I'm not.' (I told him) you are going to have to hold my hand because there's going to be a lot of people out there and he loves the attention," said Petersen.

It's called "manning the rails," an old Navy tradition that has been a North Berwick tradition since 2011. Organized by the Veteran's Council, every time a veteran returns home, hundreds of employees line up near what is affectionately known as "Hollywood and Vine" to express their gratitude.

"When we were walking down (the aisle), my daughter Cadence looked at me and said, 'Are they here for us?' And I said, 'Yeah.' She said, 'Wow, that's kinda cool Mom.' And I'm like, 'Yeah … it is,'" said Amanda Petersen, Patrick's wife.

The Air Force mechanic and his wife had no idea so many dependable people – were equally patriotic people.

"Walking into that and seeing everyone that supports what you do and appreciate everything you do, I can't really express how - how much enjoyment and pride it made me feel," Patrick Petersen said.

His wife was equally moved.

"I had all I could do to not start sobbing. My eyes! (I said to myself) 'Okay, your mascara is going to run, try to keep it back.' In that moment and taking it all in and knowing my husband is home and safe, knowing this is what we have as a support, there's really no words to explain that feeling to be honest," Amanda Petersen said.

When the walk was over, another line formed. This time, employees were single file, shaking Patrick's hand or perhaps sharing a hug or two. One day, Patrick will be called upon again. And one day, he will come home again. When that happens, there will be people waiting, manning the rails.

"To see a huge company come together and everything, it's not heard of. It's so unique, it's amazing. It makes me love Pratt & Whitney more than I already did," Amanda Petersen said. "This is something I'm going to remember forever."

"It sounds corny," Patrick Petersen concluded, "but the reason I serve is so we can keep the fight over there. It's like coming home, it's family here."