FORT DRUM, N.Y. - Healthcare professionals from the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity (MEDDAC), Fort Drum, New York, joined dozens of other military and community organizations from Fort Drum and the surrounding community to provide information and services to military retirees and their Families during the annual Fort Drum Retiree Appreciation Day Sept. 21, 2019.

Hundreds of retirees traveled from across New York's North Country, and in some cases further away, to attend the event which also included TRICARE information, Defense Finance and Accounting Service information, Veteran's Affairs information, static displays, demonstrations from the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) Light Fighter School, military working dog demonstrations and much more.

"There is so much information that's currently being put forth by the Department of the Army about changes, some systems are going away, new ones are coming online, and these venues give us an opportunity to inform the retirees of this information, and this may be the only way that they get that," said David Pearson, a retired Army master sergeant and the enlisted co-chair of the Fort Drum Retiree Council.

Among those in attendance from the Fort Drum MEDDAC were representatives from Army Public Health Nursing, the Physical Therapy Department, Occupational Therapy and Army Preventative Medicine to name a few.

"We are here to promote awareness of diabetes, nutrition, smoking cessation, skin cancer awareness and also safe medication," said Danielle Bretz, a public health nurse with Army Public Health Nursing and Washington D.C native. "(The Retiree Appreciation Day) helps us ascertain if they're getting these services just by talking with them. It helps us know if they're keeping up with the services, if they're being offered the services, their awareness of the services and also, if they're not, we can give them (information about the services available to them)."

At the physical therapy table, attendees were given the opportunity to test their general health knowledge by playing a question and answer game with MEDDAC physical therapists. Participants would select a numbered square and answer the question underneath. Right or wrong, they would receive a small prize and would learn something new about the benefits of maintaining physical activity along with other health and wellbeing-related topics.

"We're here to help the retired community continue to move and continue to be active just as they were when they were serving," said Capt. Veronica Lazar, a physical therapist with MEDDAC and a native of Weston, Florida. "I think previously, this information was more readily available. But now that the retirees have left the military, it's not always in front of them and it's not always accessible. But today, health providers have come together to point out some of the issues that need to be addressed."

Lazar went on to say one of the main topics she stressed with those she encountered was maintaining physical activity to prevent and combat cardiovascular disease, a condition which claims the lives of approximately 610,000 people in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I'm thankful for giving back to this retired population that's already given so much," Lazar said. "We've had people come to us and tell us their stories of how physical therapy has helped them in the past from a debilitating situation... and we've been able to provide some handouts that people didn't have a lot of information on or that they've been looking for."

In addition to health information provided by Physical Therapy, Army Public Health Nursing and Occupational Therapy, dozens of attendees were also able to receive their annual flu vaccination thanks to a local pharmacy, an important step in protecting their health during the upcoming flu season. According to the CDC, people 65 years and older are at great risk of serious complications from the flu compared with young, healthy adults because human immune defenses become weaker with age.

For retirees and Family members looking for more information on services and resources available to retirees, please contact the Fort Drum Retirement Services Office at (315) 772-6339 or email usarmy.drum.rso@mail.mil

For medical appointments at the Guthrie Ambulatory Healthcare Clinic on Fort Drum, contact the MEDDAC appointment line at (315) 772-2778 and for information on medical benefits, contact TRICARE East at (800) 444-5445.

The U.S. Army Medical Department Activity, Fort Drum, New York supports 42,000 beneficiaries by providing high-quality healthcare and leadership to maximize the medical readiness of the force and improve, restore and sustain the health of the Fort Drum community. Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fortdrummeddac/ and Twitter at https://twitter.com/FortDrumMEDDAC.