By Heather Huber, Fort Campbell CourierSeptember 28, 2015
FORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky -- Retirees and Family members rushed the Soldier Support Center to take part in Fort Campbell's annual Retiree Appreciation Day, Sept. 19, 2015.
Representatives from Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Disabled American Veterans, Campbell Crossing and many others were present to answer questions from the 435 retirees and their Families attending the event.
"We hold Retiree Appreciation Day annually to honor that one small percentage of Soldiers [who] spend more than 20 years serving and are able to retire," said Ted Faulkner, retirement services director. "Of course we [also] honor the Soldiers [who] are retired for disability."
He said the event is designed to give retirees the opportunity to come back to Fort Campbell and meet up with old friends, as well as meet new active-duty Soldiers and learn how the Army has changed since they left.
For Fillmore Kelley, a retired first sergeant, the event provides a good opportunity to stay connected with the Fort Campbell community.
"I come every year since I retired, mostly to meet the younger Soldiers and talk to them and get the updates on what has changed since I retired from the military," Kelley said. "The things they can do are just amazing. I enjoy being around 'em."
Kelley retired from the Rakkasans in 1991 and chose to stay near the post.
"I'm a Soldier for Life, I like being around Soldiers," Kelley said. "I retired around Fort Campbell because I feel more at home. Soldiers are, in my opinion, a big Family. They take care of each other."
He said he volunteers as often as he can to help support active-duty Soldiers as much as he can.
"One thing I know for sure, they deploy a lot more than we did," Kelley said. "The technology and everything they use now -- to me -- is so much more complicated than when I was in."
For retired Air Force Master Sgt. Peter Valdezate Retiree Appreciation Day was a chance to spend time with his father.
"This is our first time coming here both being retired from the military as father and son," Valdezate said. "He's having surgery on Monday. He took care of us when we were kids. We take care of him now that's he's in his older age."
Although it was his first Army Retiree Appreciation Day, Valdezate said the only real difference was the ratio of Air Force to Army retirees.
"They're still respectful," he joked. "You get a wealth of knowledge, and that's what these people need."
The guest speaker for the day was John W. Radke, chief of Army Retirement Services for the Department of the Army.
"He's the big Army representative for Retirement Services," Faulkner said. "He came and spoke and was very well received by the retirees in the audience."
Radke spoke present about changes to retiree benefits and the website that they can use to access those benefits.
"I think the retirees liked that the person who runs the programs that affect them -- the Army Retirement Services -- for the Army itself was able to come down and speak to them and talk to them," Faulkner said.
In addition to the information Radke presented, there was a health fair being run by BACH that offered retirees and their Families eye test, immunizations and even grip and blood sugar testing in addition to information on things ranging from nutrition to back health.
"Retirees have fantastic benefits through TRICARE but as an additional benefit when the come to the retiree appreciation is being able to have the immunizations -- the flu, shingles and pneumonia -- and basic health screenings," Faulkner said. "And all the information tables that BACH put on for us because they provide really good support."
At the Occupational Health table, Staff Sgt. Osuna Castro tested the grip strength of attendees and offered simple solutions to improve it.
"With the onset of age and the Army life, a lot of retirees have joint problems in their hands with arthritis -- in their hands, wrists, elbows -- so we offer a lot of different ways to protect those joints and strengthen those muscles that support those joints," Castro said.
One of the "goodies" Castro had to give away was theraputty in different grades depending on the individual's grip strength.
"We use [it] for the rehab of post-surgery of hand injuries. They go from hardest to softest and the seniors really enjoy touching them," he said. "Having the Air Assault School here we get a lot of injuries from training because we're constantly on the move. In order to get them back into the fight, back into their line of work, we do a lot of aggressive therapy to make sure the Soldiers are able to do their jobs."
While Castro said most people don't know Occupational Health exists on the fourth floor of BACH until they need help. While Ophthalmology is something everyone knows about but many don't realize they can visit on post according to Staff Sgt. Scott Kuykendall, MEDDAC, BACH.
"Sometimes they think that because they're over 65 they can't come see us," Kuykendall said. "That's not the case. Retiree population is who we see, who we take care of."
For the fair, Kuykendall was administering vision screenings, checking for distance vision as well cataracts, along with Mike Shepherd, a retired sergeant first class, who is also with MEDDAC.
"If we see anything apparent, we might have them come see us immediately, or go see their optometrist immediately," Kuykendall said.
Mostly Keukendall and Shepherd were reminding retirees and their Families of the services offered on post and letting them know they can use BACH's services.
"If they are seeing someone in the local area, [we let them know] that we offer those services and they can come back to see us because sometimes there'll be copays or things of that nature and we don't charge that," Kuykendall said.
He said he'd seen several patients who hadn't been to an eye doctor in more than three years and others with an obvious condition who he asked to come back for a full screening at the hospital.
"Some people don't know. They don't wear glasses," Kuykendall said. "They don't normally see an optometrist. They just think it's just this thing that'll go away -- sometimes it will, sometimes it won't. They need to come get it checked out."
Inside, Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, showed off the equipment they use during deployment to retirees from every generation across several military occupational specialties. Outside, 101st Airborne Division Artillery Brigade and 52nd Ordinance Group (EOD) had static displays set up.
"The retirees really enjoy talking to the Soldiers [who] are currently serving," Faulkner said. "They will tell these young Soldiers how it was way back when. When we first opened Saturday morning, I looked over to the table where we had a medic and all the medical supplies and there was a gentleman there who served in Vietnam telling this young PFC medic how he did it as a medic in Vietnam and the things they used compared to the new high-speed devices they use nowadays."
The day ended with a tour around post, including the Warrior Transition Batalion barracks, the Intrepid Spirit Center, the Sabalauski Air Assault School, the Pratt Museum and the Engagement Skills Center.
"This is the best Retiree Appreciation Day we've had in the eight years that I've conducted them here at Fort Campbell," Faulkner said.