By Ms. Julie Kelemen (Yongsan)November 20, 2018
Once a year, Yongsan holds a Retire Appreciation event to formally recognize the area's retirees with a special day to celebrate their service.
"Retiree Appreciation Day helps with the transition and provides support and facilitates the exchange of information as retirees move on to a new phase of their lives," said U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry B. Harris, Jr.
As the guest speaker for the event, Harris emphasized how the retiree's selfless service and sacrifices have contributed to a free and prosperous society in South Korea and the long-term prospects for the alliance.
"Our strength comes from loyal retirees, spouses and family members through their dedication and support provided the foundation for stability and peace in (South) Korea," Harris said.
In his speech, Harris, who is a retiree himself, highlighted the importance of military service to support the US-ROK Alliance. It has served as a foundation for peace and stability for decades.
"Your service sustains and strengthens the war forged-alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea. It enables Korea to be the productive powerhouse that is today."
The US-ROK alliance remains rock solid and underpinned by 28,000 active duty American soldiers and troops stationed in South Korea to help protect against North Korean aggression, and this year marks the 65th anniversary of the formal security alliance and the end of the Korean War, Harris said.
The event also gave the retirees a chance to meet the Soldiers providing their health care services on base.
More than 29 businesses and organizations from U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, Brian Allgood Army Community Hospital and the surrounding communities came to the event to provide information and updates to the retirees.
Although many services, like the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, have moved their offices to Camp Humphreys, they will continue to provide services and resources to retirees at Yongsan.
The dental clinic was one of the most popular services, according to Staff Sergeant Jose Posa, from Carius Dental Clinic at Camp Humphreys.
On a typical day, Yongsan has two to three dentists and can serve approximately eight patients a day. In order to accommodate the 200+ patients attending the Retiree Appreciation Day, a team of five dentists and an additional 26 dental specialists came from Camp Humphreys to provide dental cleanings and exams.
"Oral hygiene is expensive on the outside, so we're here to provide cleanings to retirees and their spouses and give advice on oral care and the proper way to take care of teeth, bridges, implants and dentures," Posa said.
Capt. James Mattson, a pharmacist with the 65th Medical Brigade, said the event was a good opportunity to interact with the retirees outside of a healthcare setting and to listen to their concerns.
He educated the retirees about the process his team uses to order medication, carefully count pills, verify the dosages, check for interactions and process the payment or insurance quickly and accurately.
Many retirees came for the camaraderie.
"The best part of the Retiree Appreciation Day was seeing my old friends, old mentors and seeing the way the community supports the retirees in Korea," said Leon Ellison, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Since retiring from Osan 26 years ago, Ellison has remained active in the Yongsan military community. He works on base at the Dragon Hill Lodge and is an active member of the VFW.
In addition to connecting with old friends, he said the event was an opportunity for retirees to reach out to fellow service men and women and to have an active role in shaping the current Soldiers, airmen, seamen and Marines.
"They are following in our footsteps. Military service is very, very honorable," Ellison said.
Many of the information booths were staffed by veterans.
Curtis Williams, a retiree with 50 years of service in the Army and the Air Force, said the day was just as much about giving back. Curtis is the Yongsan Fire Chief and has attended the Retiree Appreciation Day for the past six years as a vendor to provide information on fire safety.
"Man should be ashamed to die until he has done something for humanity. I'm still figuring out what I've got to give."
The event concluded with a cake cutting at the Post Exchange.