Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey made a surprise visit to the Retiree Health and Benefits Expo at Fort Jackson's Solomon Center May 19.

Fort Jackson's Retiree Appreciation Days, themed "Once a Soldier, Always a Soldier. A Soldier for Life1" kicked off with a free continental breakfast May 17 at the NCO Club, special recognition during a Basic Combat Training graduation, hit the Fort Jackson Golf Course May 18, and culminated with the Expo. The event focused on the importance of the Army's commitment to recognize the lifelong contributions of its retirees.

Dailey, who was in South Carolina to speak at the 193rd Infantry Brigade Ball, stressed recognizing Army retirees with events like RAD is not only important; it's critical.

"I'll tell you it's more than important, it's critical because this generation, not only sacrificed and served for this country for almost their entire adult lives, but they are also going to be the generation that goes out there and inspires the next generation to join this military," he said. "We need them; we need them as ambassadors …"

"Ambassadors" like, Frieda Dortch, a retired Army chief warrant officer, who recalled joining the Army back when women were limited to only two Military Occupational Specialties.

"I retired in 1991 … I came into the military (in 1968) when there were only two things that a woman could do and that was administrative or medical so I worked my way up the ranks. I've had many jobs and many great units throughout" my career.

Dailey said that by telling the truth about their experiences, retirees are able to sell the Army so we need to show them and their Families gratitude for their service.

"We need to thank them; we need to thank them for the sacrifices and services that they and
their Families gave for this nation," he said.

According to Dortch, Dailey's surprise appearance at the expo sends an important message to the retiree community.

"It's important to the [retirees] that are here to let us know that there's concern about our welfare," she said of the Army's senior enlisted leader's surprise visit.

For Theresa Fallon who recently retired after serving 26 years in the Army; seeing Dailey at the Retiree Expo was what she called a rare sighting and a "Kodak moment."

"Here at the retiree expo and the Sergeant Major of the Army, which is like a unicorn, showed up … and I wanted to get a photo with him," she said.

Fallon said she is impressed with Dailey's concern for the Soldiers.

"As I watch what he's been doing; especially for the enlisted, it's great to see the changes he's making in the Army and how he really cares about what' s going on," she said. "I have not seen that before so it's nice."

Pfc. Roushane Lynch with Primary Care at Moncrief Army Clinic echoed Fallon's appreciation for Dailey's genuine concern for the Soldiers and approachable personality.

"He's really friendly," Lynch said. Dailey is "just a very upbeat kind of person and I thought it was kind of cool that I actually got to meet someone like that."

As a new Soldier Lynch says the opportunity to support the Retiree Health Benefit Expo was a great experience.

"It was really awesome just being able to meet and greet with retirees and veterans hearing about their experiences of being in the Army and working here," he said. "It's been really uplifting and a really great experience and I'm glad I got the opportunity to do it."

The Retiree Health and Benefit Expo hosted by Moncrief Army Health Clinic, in collaboration with various community supporters, provided information on resources and services available to the Army retiree community both on and off post.