U.S. ARMY RESERVE CENTER BARRIGADA, Guam - A Soldier is a Soldier for Life, and Soldiers do not ever leave one another behind. U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers took these words to heart recently, and tracked down 27 U.S. Army Reserve retirees and their families in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, recognizing and honoring each retiree and their family at an official retirement ceremony.
"We righted a wrong," Sgt. Maj. John Miyata, brigade current operations sergeant major, 303rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, said. "We wanted to take care and honor those guys, after all they have given, not just for the Soldier, but also the spouses. How many times do the spouses get recognized, and your whole clan come out for the event."
Soldiers and their spouses from the 368th Military Police Co., 797th Engineer Co., 302nd Quarter Master, 3303rd Mobilization Support Brigade and the Theater Support Group - Det. Marianas were among those recognized.
According to participants, some of the service members honored had retired for quite some time, some even so long as ten years. Standard U.S. Army retirements today include ceremonially presenting the retiree with a U.S. flag, the official U.S. Army retirement pin, a retirement certificate, and those in this ceremony had not previously received this closure. Just because a Soldier is not an Active Duty Soldier, that Army Reserve Soldier has still served his or her country honorably for twenty years or more, many serving on multiple deployments as well.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Roberto Lanaan, retired from the Army Reserve himself, discovered these retired Soldiers had never had a formal retirement ceremony and wanted to honor them for their service to the nation. He started searching for Soldiers through Facebook for those who had not received their flag or had a retirement ceremony.
Lanaan reached out to Miyata, also the President of the Pacific Sergeants Majors Association.
"After reaching out to Sgt. Maj. John Miyata, who got the ball rolling and then to witness the ceremony, I felt grateful and happy for the retirees for they were celebrated for their service," Lanaan said. "I am grateful that I got to be a part of this momentus occasion."
Miyata realized, after speaking with Lanaan, that there were many more who had served the nation but had never received a flag or retirement acknowledgement.
"When we started conversing, he was saying that there are numerous retirees who had not had a retirement ceremony and they at least wanted their flag, some didn't get their awards, none of them got their retirement kits," he said. "We started talking about this and the number grew, from 10 to 15, to more."
Miyata worked with Soldiers and leaders on the ground in Guam collecting information and contacting the retirees. Sergeant 1st Class Darcy Taisican, 303rd MEB, Master Sgt. Michelle Metcalf, 9th MSC Retirement Services, Maj. Maryjane Larimar, Lt. Col. Richard Barcinas, and many more U.S. Army personnel in Guam contributed.
At the ceremony, Soldiers were recognized for their service to the country with an official Certificate of Retirement and a United States Flag, by hosts 303rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Commander Col. Samuel Membrere and 303rd MEB Command Sgt. Maj. Beau Tatsumura. The event was also coordinated by not only 303rd MEB Soldiers but also several dedicated volunteers from the 368th Military Police Co. and a group effort with all other Guam tenant units.
"All very thankful to have that closure," Miyata said. "Some had been 10 years since retirement. The master of ceremonies, he would say, he was my first sergeant, he was my first sergeant too, he also was my first sergeant, it just tells you how many generations, all these retirees, since Guam is such a small island, they ran the ceremony, they were proud to have helped that ceremony, to honor their former mentors, a lot of emotion, tears, when the retirees would come in, it was truly like family, it's a small island, you could tell how close they all were."
Miyata said Soldiers and families were very appreciative on the ceremony and many felt they finally had closure to their careers with this recognition.
"The families all brought food in, and afterwards, my gosh what a feast. It was truly a blessing to be a part of this," Miyata said.
According to Master Sgt. Michelle Metcalf, 9th MSC Retirement Services noncommissioned officer, units with retiring Soldiers or who may have Soldiers who have not received their retirement ceremony or proper recognition should reach out to their individual units, or to the 9th MSC Retirement Services Office to coordinate and plan to receive the honors due.
Metcalf travels across the Pacific regularly hosting Pre-Retirement Seminars to teach those nearing their retirement or for those recently retired, what to expect and what to ask for. Metcalf will next host a Pre-Retirement seminar in Guam and CNMI in August.
Also, as the Soldiers who conducted the ceremony trained for how to conduct this specific ceremony, Miyata pointed out, they are now prepared for running ceremonies like this again in the near future, so they can take on the task of honoring retirees in the next year. Plans are to now hold regularly scheduled retirement ceremonies, now that the Soldiers of Guam and CNMI have the training and readiness to conduct similar events.
Several more Soldiers have been identified to still receive their ceremony and kit so preparations are underway. Retirees have all been encouraged to attend the next Retirement Services Workshop in Guam hosted by the Theater Support Command Retirement Services Offices as well.