Stars and filmmakers of the critically acclaimed documentary “The Way We Get By” appeared Saturday, Nov. 13, at Barnes & Noble.

The 2009 documentary, which follows the lives of three Maine residents who greet troops at Bangor International Airport, has garnered national attention, including an Emmy nomination.

For first-time filmmakers Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, the success has been enriching.

“When we started out, nobody would fund the film because they didn’t think it would find much of an audience,” said Pullapilly. “They saw it was about senior citizens and the military. It’s not a hip, sexy documentary, but Aron and I knew there would be an audience. We worked extra jobs to pay for this.”

After a rough cut of the film became available for viewing, a Maine veteran and executives at Bangor Savings Bank provided the filmmakers with funds to finish and market the film. “We would never have been able to take the film nationally if not for the response we got here in Maine,” said Pullapilly.

The film has played at film festivals, college campuses and theaters all across the U.S., including Phoenix, Beverly Hills, New York City and Washington, D.C.

Joan Gaudet, one of the featured troop greeters in the film, was especially excited when the group received an invitation to the White House, which included a private meeting with Vice President Joe Biden. “He gave us all a hug and kissed me. I couldn’t believe we were getting to see the vice president of the United States,” she said.

Fellow troop greeter and Korean war veteran Jerry Mundy, 74, said his experience since the film’s release has exceeded his expectations.

“When they asked to film me, I thought they were making a home movie,” said Mundy. “I didn’t comprehend it. Getting to travel with them has been awesome, and I’m glad to be part of the film. It’s benefited the troop greeter community enormously.”

Mundy and the other troop greeters in the film have been staples at Bangor International Airport, where they see members of the armed forces off before leaving U.S. soil for Iraq and Afghanistan.

They also are there to honor those returning home after serving overseas. “Welcoming them home is my favorite part because you know they’re going to be safe. I have some idea of what they’re up against, and this is my way of saying thank you for your service,” Mundy said. “The troops look so young. They should be going to the prom, not to war.”

Flights arrive and depart BIA at all hours of the day and night, and these seniors are there with handshakes, hugs and refreshments.

Pullapilly said the film resonates with so many people because it puts aside politics in favor of the human perspective. “You can’t help but get emotional when you see strangers give such kindness to one another. That’s something we fell in love with right away,” she said.

Pullapilly and Gaudet, who had worked in television in Michigan, decided they wanted to tell in-depth stories. While visiting Maine, the couple went with Gaudet’s mother, Joan, to the airport to see why she so enjoyed greeting troops. It wasn’t long before they had the subject of their first documentary.

“We saw that the airport was a healing spot for the three greeters as we got to know their personal stories,” Pullapilly said. “The film is entertaining, but it’s also about social issues of aging in America and the treatment of veterans.”

Bill Knight, 88, a World War II veteran, said it’s fulfilling to greet the troops. “I’m just glad to help people. These men and women are putting their lives on the line to make sure we have freedom,” he said.

Last year, Knight moved to Hampden, in part, to be closer to the airport. Prior to that he routinely traveled more than 20 miles from his home in Bradford.

In Word War II, Knight served in the Army Air Corps, the precursor to the United States Air Force. He said, if it was possible, he would be serving today in the military. Knight said he is grateful to the military for its commitment to the country. “As long as we’ve got troops, I’ll be doing greetings,” he said.

The filmmakers are working on showing the film at Togus VA Medical Center.

To view the theatrical trailer and to learn how to host a community screening of the film, visit