By Cannoneer staffSeptember 23, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Retired Sgt. Maj. Don Armstrong and his wife, Marsha, made the 200-mile drive from Owasso, Okla., to Fort Sill, for Retiree Appreciation Days. They had attended RAD twice, and on this trip they planned to take advantage of the three days of activities.
"It's just a wonderful way to celebrate having retired from the service," said Marsha. "We enjoy the open house, the tours and the banquet."
The Watts were part of the 350 military retirees and spouses who attended the 35th Annual RAD open house at Rinehart Fitness Center Sept. 19. The daylong open house kicked off RAD. It featured more than 60 agencies, vendors and organizations who provided health screenings, benefits information and administrative services, such as military ID cards, legal and Tricare services.
The Fort Sill Retirement Services Office sponsored the event.
"We are the only region in the Army that does a three-day retiree appreciation event," said Mark Winburn, Retirement Services officer. "Some of the other installations do a one- or two-day event, some even only do a matter of hours."
In addition to the open house, the installation conducted its bi-monthly postwide retirement ceremony Sept. 20 as part of the RAD activities. Following the ceremony, two guided tours were available: the Sherman House (commanding general's residence) and the Fort Sill Historic Landmark Museum.
Retirees were also invited to dine with Soldiers at the Staff Sgt. Juan Garcia Dining Facility for lunch. That evening the retiree appreciation banquet at the Patriot Club featured speaker Tom Kelly, Fort Sill Garrison deputy commander. Almost 240 retirees heard Kelly speak about the state of the garrison. "Costello's Own" bagpipers from the 77th U.S. Army Band provided the musical entertainment
RAD concluded Sept. 21, with the free Buffalo Burger Cookout at Co-op Park. The four-hour event drew 3,700 people from the Lawton-Fort Sill community.
Inside Rinehart, representatives ranged from the Association of the U.S. Army to Reynolds Army Community Hospital to Ten Oaks Retirement Community to Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.
Capt. Kourtney Simpson, Fort Sill Dental Activity resident, along with an oral surgeon and dental assistant provided information about dentures and answered questions -- many about new implant procedures as well as Tricare dental insurance queries.
"We also have free samples of toothbrushes, denture cleaning kits here, and we're offering oral cancer screenings at the clinic," she said. "It's great to do this service and help out our veterans."
For the past eight years, Retired Sgt. 1st Class George Watts and his wife, Rebecca, from Midland, Texas, having been going to the Fort Hood (Texas) RAD. Living about equidistant between Fort Hood and Fort Sill, this year the Watts decided to make the five-hour drive here. It was a busy morning for George at the open house.
"I've already got my flu shot, and some basic health screenings, and I'm going to get an eye examination," he said. "We've also talked to numerous vendors and are getting a lot of interesting information.
One of the vendors new this year was an aroma therapy group, Winburn said. "They are providing massages, and showing veterans how to take care of themselves," he said.
Carrying a plastic bag full of health pamphlets and giveaways retired Master Sgt. Amastee Wright, of Lawton, navigated through the many tables on the Rinehart gym floor. He said he received a flu shot and talked with numerous reps.
"I like to come out here -- it's a traditional thing; and to learn about my benefits, and to meet some of my old Soldier comrades," said Wright, who served 20 years. "I'm really enjoying it."
Veterans Service Center's officers Tom King and Jeff Seright provided information about applying for Veterans Affairs benefits, including combat-related special compensation.
"It's interesting that the number of veterans who do not realize the benefits that they are entitled to," said Seright. "We're running into a ton of World War II veterans, some who also served in Korea, who have never filed a claim."
Winburn said the big draw to RAD was that retirees had access to a lot of agencies and services in one spot.
"Instead of coming to Fort Sill to get their will updated, or getting a power of attorney, or to get a flu shot, they say, 'we will just wait until the RAD and take care of it all at once,'" he said.
In addition to Winburn's two staffers, Winburn said the Fort Sill Retiree Council's 38 members helped run the open house.
"There is no way RAD could happen without the retiree council," Winburn said. "I believe Fort Sill has the most energized retiree council in the Army."