By David VergunNovember 16, 2015
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 16, 2015) -- Today's veterans who've served throughout the last 14 years of continuous war, "are the finest team of Soldiers yet assembled on the face of this planet," Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn said.
"These Soldiers for life - who like all generations of Soldiers before them - answered this nation's call to duty," he said. "They're experienced leaders, who are accustomed to building and leading diverse teams to solve complex problems for the nation, and, they are resilient.
"Our Army's and our nation's commitment to these brave men and women cannot stop when they take the uniform off. We must all help ensure our veterans strengthen the prosperity of our nation through rewarding and meaningful civilian careers and service in our communities. This is exactly what Army Retirement Services does," he said.
Allyn was the keynote speaker during the 60th anniversary of Army Retirement Services, held in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, Nov. 16.
Army Retirement Services is there when needed, he said, whether it's helping an 85-year-old surviving spouse ensure she has access to continued care, or assisting a 23-year-old wounded warrior translate military skills to a civilian job application.
Army Retirement Services has a tall order to fill, Allyn said, noting that since 9/11, more than 350,000 Soldiers have retired and today there are nearly a million retired Soldiers from World War II through Korea and Vietnam to Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Although these veterans are technically retired, Allyn noted that they are still serving and leading in communities throughout the nation.
Army Retirement Services "works quietly in communities across the nation and across the world, assisting [them] and their Families with opportunities for employment, education and health care, and most importantly, [they help] maintain the bond that connects our Army to the nation."
Retired Col. John W. Radke, chief of Army Retirement Services Office, or RSO, delivered opening remarks. He noted that in 1955, RSO's original mission was to provide a point of contact for 79,000 Army retirees.
Today, Army RSO's mission has expanded to 116 RSO offices worldwide, providing retirement benefits, information and referral and program counseling to more than a million Soldiers of all components, as well as 948,296 retired Soldiers and 249,160 surviving spouses, he said.
"People are the Army. It is emblematic of the Army ethos and our collective responsibilities as leaders to those who wear and have worn the cloth of our nation," Radke said. "Our job is to do all we can do to prepare them as they get ready to retire to understand their entitlements and earned benefits as they retire, and, to never, ever break faith with them after they've retired and continue to serve our nation. This is our sacred obligation."
Retired Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace, co-chair, chief of staff of the Army Retired Soldier Council, also delivered remarks.
Lovelace said he and many other retirees miss being on "that super bowl team." Being on that team was about camaraderie and living the warrior ethos. Like many others, he said he can't wait for that call to serve, should it ever come again.
He then thanked the men and women working for Army Retirement Services for all they do, and thanked those in uniform at the celebration for their service.
THEY SERVED TOO
Allyn gave a special call out to guests Ann Smith, wife of the late Lt. Col. Gary F. Smith and Michelle Beilke, daughter of the late Master Sgt. Max J. Beilke. The two retired combat veterans were working in Army RSO at the Pentagon when terrorists flew a plane into the building during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Both were killed.
"Gary Smith and Max Beilke were committed to empowering our veterans and their Families and they embodied the best of what Army Retirement Services has done for the past 60 years," Allyn said, describing them and others as the "countless men and women, working outside the spotlight with no fanfare, dedicated to ensuring our retired Soldiers and their Families continue to thrive."