FORT SILL, Okla., Sept. 22, 2016 -- Several hundred military retirees from around the area visited the post during Retiree Appreciation Days Sept. 15-17. They and their families were treated to an array of vendors and health care professionals who had set up booths in the Rinehart Fitness Center gym, as well as tours of the post and facilities.

A co-organizer, retired Lt. Col. Allen Shell, said most of the funding comes from the Retiree Council's golf tournament in June, which raised money for the wooden flag cases given to retirees, as well as offset part of the cost of the banquet. Shell was stationed at Fort Sill several times during his career. With four children "firmly entrenched in the school system" he retired in 2009 in the Lawton area.

Shell said of the event, which is open to all military branch retirees, "We've got the largest in the continental United States. That's one of the feathers in our hat. Many other installations cut back on funding but it's mandated by Department of Army regulation to have these every year. It keeps getting bigger. As long as we've got two nickels we can rub together we're gonna make this thing happen."

The response from retirees is "phenomenal," he said. "A lot of people use this as their vacation time," said Shell. "Kind of like a mini-reunion for them. I see a lot of the same faces. We get folks that come from eight to 10 states away -- Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Texas."

The open house at the gym went until mid-afternoon, with free flu shots being given in one corner, and Dental Activity-Fort Sill providing oral cancer screenings and tooth care kits in another. Capt. Matthew Massey, dentist at Cowan Dental Clinic, said many people don't know that retirees and their families are not provided free dental care. A new program is hoping to remedy some of that by allowing retirees with full benefits to be seen by Comanche Advanced Education General Dentistry residents. It gives them experience while filling in a medical gap in retiree benefits, he said.

Attendees could also obtain legal services such as wills and powers of attorney, have dog tags made, and learn of many other services on post and in the community geared toward retirees.

A retirement ceremony was at the 95th Adjutant General (Reception) Batta-lion, Friday, with post tours to the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum, and the Jared Monti Hall Simulation Center following. Lunch was served at the Staff Sgt. Juan Garcia Dining Facility, and dinner was a banquet at the Patriot Club.

The event ended at the 35th Annual Buffalo Burger cookout hosted by Fort Sill Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the Lawton Chamber of Commerce Co-op Program on Saturday.