The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Chatham showcases "The Way We Get By" in honor of Veterans Day


Chatham University’s Sanger Lecture Hall hosted a viewing of the documentary, “The Way We Get By,” this past Veterans Day on Tuesday, November 11. The Chatham-hosted event brought together the campus community to have a moment to reflect on the meaning of Veterans Day and ponder the grander impact that the day has.

The film, which premiered on PBS on November 11, 2009 and was nominated for an Emmy, follows a brief period of time in the lives of its three central characters.

Bill Knight, Jerry Mundy and Joan Gaudet are the three people focused on and followed by the cameras as their stories unfold onscreen before the audience. These three people spend their time greeting arriving American troops at an airport in the town of Bangor, Maine. At the time the film was made, the three greeters had been on call 24-hours a day for the past five years.

“The Way We Get By,” by filmmaker Aron Gaudet, takes an up-close and intimate look at these three elderly greeters and what it is that personally drives them to make the extra effort to be present to welcome these troops home. Knight, Mundy, and Gaudet are all facing the challenges and losses associated with aging and have found a new purpose for their present lives in these actions: transforming their own lives through the service work they do for others.

The idea for “The Way We Get By” came about when Gaudet’s mother answered his phone calls less and less frequently. Aron soon found out that Joan Gaudet, a 76-year old widow, had joined a group of about 200 other people who traveled to the Bangor International Airport to greet soldiers returning to the United States.

No matter when the soldiers were arriving–day or night; rain, sunshine, or snow–the group of greeters would make sure to be there. Upon the soldiers arrival at the tiny airport, they would be greeted with handshakes and smiling faces from all of the volunteers.

During the first morning of shooting for the film, the filmmakers met Bill Knight. “He was so open and honest. He took us back to his house; no one had been in it since his wife died four or five years earlier. He immediately trusted us; it was pretty amazing,” Aron Gaudet said of meeting the World War II veteran.

The same honesty was also found in Gaudet’s mother, Joan, and 74-year-old Jerry Mundy. These three greeters became the center of the film, as it shows both their time spent with the volunteer work, as well as glimpses into their daily lives.

Joan Gaudet was concerned about the imminent departure of two of her grandchildren to Iraq, while still remaining cheerful about the situation. Knight is battling prostate cancer and debt, while Mundy is faced with rising problems and the recent loss of a close friend.

After five years of shooting for the film, the story Aron Gaudet set out to tell was completed. Intertwining the story of the daily lives of three aging greeters with the soldiers they are welcoming back home, “The Way We Get By” tells a story that draws its viewers in from the start.

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