BANGOR, Maine – Former President Bill Clinton surprised U.S. troops arriving from Iraq when a refueling stop for his private plane at the Bangor International Airport coincided with the arrival of two flights carrying soldiers.
Clinton's departure was delayed by a problem with his aircraft, allowing him to join a line of local troop greeters who meet each plane carrying soldiers returning from overseas or leaving for duty.
"Thank you for your service," Clinton said as he shook hands and hugged many of the soldiers. He autographed hats, cards and other items.
The soldiers, about 600 of them, were returning to bases in Oklahoma, Texas and Georgia. Their two chartered aircraft had landed for fuel.
"This is great," Staff Sgt. Anthony Thompson of New York City told the Bangor Daily News.
Clinton's private plane, a Falcon 900, was scheduled to land for fuel and to clear customs, but there was a mechanical problem as well, said Rebecca Hupp, airport manager. Airport administrators didn't know at the time of its arrival that Clinton was on board, she said.
There was smoke in the cockpit that became heavier as the plane was taxiing after landing, but no one was in danger, Clinton spokesman Jay Carson said Tuesday in New York. Another plane was brought in and Clinton left about four hours later for White Plains, N.Y.
Clinton had some fun when Army Spc. Joshua Ruschenberg used a cell phone provided by troop greeters to call his sister-in-law, Shancy Garrison, in North Carolina. He handed over the phone to the former commander in chief.
"Hi, Shancy, it's Bill Clinton," the former president said into the phone.