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Military retirees are invited to participate in this year's Retiree Appreciation Days, which will take place starting today through Saturday at various locations on post. Retirees can get health screening and other services at the Health and Benefits Expo Saturday at the Solomon Center.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- One of the first things any newcomer to Fort Jackson will inevitably learn is how military friendly the Columbia area is. Because of this, it comes as no surprise to me that many service members decide to remain in or relocate to this region after their active duty careers come to an end.

As a matter of fact, if you gathered all the military retirees living in the Midlands area and relocated them to one place, you could populate a town the size of Spartanburg. As incredible as this may sound, our Fort Jackson Retirement Services Office serves more than 43,000 military retirees in the area.

Those are 43,000 men and women who have invested 20 or more years of their lives defending our Nation. Those are 43,000 stories of sacrifice by these veterans and their Families. Those are 43,000 reasons to put on a world-class, five-star event when Fort Jackson hosts its annual Retiree Appreciation Days this week.

And, let me assure you, the event that our men and women behind the scenes have planned for our retirees will be nothing short of that.

This year, for the first time, we will start the Retiree Appreciation Days with a retreat ceremony and salute to retirees, which will begin at 4:30 p.m., today at Post Headquarters. This will be a wonderful chance for our current Soldiers to say, "Thank you," to their predecessors for paving the way.

I'm very happy to welcome the former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack Tilley as the guest speaker for this ceremony. I think it would be hard to imagine a more qualified speaker for the occasion -- not only did Tilley serve in uniform for 36 years, he also recently completed a term as the co-chair of the Chief of Staff of the Army's Retiree Council.

In addition to the retreat ceremony, I invite our military retirees to participate in the many events offered through Saturday. I especially want to point out the Retiree Health and Benefits Expo Saturday, which provides a wealth of services and information to retirees all in one location. Among many other things, retirees will be able to receive health screening and counseling and will even be able to receive ID card services.

My hope is that the event will also serve as a wonderful opportunity for retirees from different eras and service branches to come together and bond over their experiences. In the end, what it boils down to is this: No matter if you served in the Navy during World War II, in the Army during the Korean War, in the Marines during the Vietnam War or in the Air Force during the War on Terrorism -- your service is a point of pride to our Nation.

I'm looking forward to welcoming retirees from all service branches to Fort Jackson this week. I hope you will have a chance to come out and join me in extending our thanks to these patriots.

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Page last updated Thu May 17th, 2012 at 00:00