ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- The Rock Island Arsenal hosted its third-quarter Retirement and Retreat Community Ceremony, to honor five Soldiers and two Department of the Army Civilians as they retired from government service, here, June 21, at Heritage Hall.

Joint Munitions Command senior leader, Rhonda VanDeCasteele, deputy to the commander, and Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Moses, Army Sustainment Command, presided over the ceremony. VanDeCasteele provided a brief biography of each individual, mentioned their future plans, and wished them well as they transition into retirement.

VanDeCasteele and Sgt. Maj Moses presented awards and certificates of retirement to Col. Craig Meredith, First Army; Master Sgt. Darwin Barcus, First Army; Master Sgt. Felder Benjamin, Army Sustainment Command; Sgt. 1st Class Eugene Blink Jr., Army Sustainment Command; Sgt. 1st Class Michael Conner Jr., Army Sustainment Command; Gary Budelier, Joint Munitions Command; and Kathy Lee, Joint Munitions Command, to recognize more than 197 years of combined government service to the Department of Defense.

"Today, as we recognize and honor our retiring Soldiers and civilians and thank them for their service to our great Nation, we must realize that we are not only saying farewell to the person, we are saying farewell to 197 years of experience," said VanDeCasteele, "These fine men and women devoted their adult lives to a higher cause and to careers that truly made a difference to the Warfighters."

"In addition to recognizing our retirees, we want to recognize their families, their spouses, their children, their parents, their siblings and other loved ones who stood by them throughout their careers and who were there for them on good days and bad," added VanDeCasteele.

Following the official awards to retirees, recognition was provided to spouses and family members for supporting their Soldier's or civilian's career. Family members received a personal certificate of recognition and were presented bouquet of flowers from each retiree.

"As the seven of you depart here today with your awards and medals, I hope you will always see them for what they are, symbols of gratitude and appreciation," concluded VanDeCasteele. "We truly cannot thank you enough, and we wish you all the very best in your retirement years."

Following the awards, the Retreat Ceremony retired the colors for the duty day to the sound of a howitzer boom and the lowering of the United States flag from the installation's flag pole.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Conner Jr., a native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, recently served as the senior chaplain's assistant for the Army Sustainment Command, began his career in the United States Army in May of 1998.

"The Army has given me so many opportunities," Conner said. "I am so honored and humbled to have served as an infantryman and a chaplain assistant during my career. I look forward to the next chapter in my life as a retired Soldier." Conner plans to spend more time with his family and work as a truck driver in the eastern Texas area.

The Quarterly Retirement and Retreat ceremony is a joint effort hosted by a major tenant organization on the Rock Island Arsenal. The Joint Munitions Command was this year's third-quarter host.