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Retired military personnel join new Soldiers during Pass in Review at Hilton Field last Thursday during graduation ceremonies.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Men and women retired from the armed forces were invited to Fort Jackson last week to participate in the post's annual Retiree Appreciation Days events.

Spread out over three days, activities included a golf tournament, breakfast at the Officers' Club and a gathering at Hilton Field to watch the latest batch of new Soldiers graduate from Basic Combat Training.

"Our country stands proudly on the shoulders of these retirees, who have served before many of these new graduates were even born," retired Maj. Gen. Abraham Turner, former commanding general of Fort Jackson, told Thursday's gathering at Hilton Field. "Our nation will never be able to repay the debt that we owe military retirees. So today, here at Fort Jackson, we want to extend our thanks as a small token of recognition for their outstanding service to our nation."

The morning was an opportunity for military retirees to reflect on both the past and the future, said Everet Jackson, a Vietnam veteran from Lugoff.

"I'm here every year, whenever they have Retiree Appreciation Days," Jackson said. "This is the first time we've had it on the same day as graduation. We get to see the young Soldiers standing where I stood many years ago, looking forward to what they have ahead of them in their career, if that's the path they choose. It lets me reflect upon how the Army helped mold me and make me the person I am today."

For Kim Wong, of Elgin, it was an opportunity to watch his legacy carried on in a very real way.

"I'm here because my son is graduating in Alpha Company," said Wong, who spent 21 years in the Air Force, which included support for Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield. "Fort Jackson is a great place to be, and I'm proud to be an American."

Carl Lopez, retired command sergeant major for Fort Jackson and president of the Military of Order of the Purple Heart in Columbia, spent 32 years in the Army. He said Retiree Appreciation Days was an opportunity for military retirees to find out what Fort Jackson had to offer them.

"We've got 56,000 military retirees in the state of South Carolina," Lopez said. "That makes us the eighth largest military population of that sort in the United States."

Retired Master Sgt. William Campbell said he "tried" the Army for 25 years.

"It didn't take, so I put 14 years in the National Guard," he said. "I've been working with the Fort Jackson museum for several years, until recently. Today is a chance to see these young Soldiers graduating from basic. It's a starting point for them."

"Military retirees and their families -- thank you for your sacrifices," Turner told the audience at Hilton Field. "Thank you for your years of service. Thank you for the dedicated commitment to serve this great nation of ours."

Page last updated Thu May 23rd, 2013 at 00:00