ORLANDO, Fla. - Resounding responses of "HOOAH" filled the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, as hundreds of military veterans gathered Feb. 22 for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield 2020 Retiree Appreciation Day.
Approximately 20 organizations and agencies were on-hand to answer personal inquiries, provide information, counseling and assistance to more than 500 veterans who attended the event.
"The Army's retired community is actually the Army's largest demographic," said Mark Overberg, retirement services, Department of the Army. "This year, we will actually go over one million retired Soldiers. It is a large community."
George Rosenfield, a World War II and Korean War veteran who served in the 10th Mountain Division and is now living in Melbourne, Florida, was honored by Retired Lt. Gen. William Webster, former 3rd ID commander, at the event for his service.
"Sir, thanks very much for making the effort to come see us today; it is good to see you here, and as (Rosenfield) told me, 'It is good to be seen, too,'" Webster said.
Attendees heard from keynote speaker, Webster, as well as representatives from HQDA Retirement Services, Veterans Administration and Military Officers Association of America before the information fair began.
"I love how it is all organized," Rosenfield said. "They talked about the Army organization at the higher levels and how it interfaces with the rest of the government - that was interesting."
Thomas Randall, Veterans of Foreign Wars Florida vice director, helped retirees at his booth during the information fair.
"Any information we can give veterans and retired veterans to make their lives a little easier, or to give them the benefits they've earned and deserve, it's all good, all of it," he said.
An overarching theme from the speakers was the importance of the retirees sharing their stories of their service with future generations.
"Your mission has changed, but your duty has not," Overberg, said.
Overberg expressed that future generations need more than just movies and television shows to depict the life and career of military service; they need the stories of the legends who served and they should know the real truth about military service.
Harold Youmans, a 30-year veteran having served in the Vietnam War and earned a spot in the Fort Benning Hall of Fame, said he has attended nearly 20 retiree appreciation events over the years. He said he likes to stay up-to-date on the information available to retirees, not only for himself, but for his fellow veterans who come to him with questions.
"You always learn something here; no matter how long you've been retired," Youmans said. "It's a good program."
Webster gave an update on the ID's upcoming missions and movements.
"It's a busy slate, but just like the rest of our Army, these 30,000 men and women of Fort Stewart, Hunter, Fort Benning and across Georgia do a magnificent job," Webster said.
Some veterans have been attending these events since their retirement from the service, while others may attend years after their service is complete.
Ramon Benavides, a first time attendee, who retired from the Army 10 years ago as a master sergeant, mentioned that the presentations, the updates and the briefings were all really important.
"Getting ready, relevant information is extremely important," Benavides said. "I'll be attending these for the rest of my life."
For information on programs, benefits and procedures the Army wants retirees to know about, visit soldierforlife.army.mil/retirement or read the blog at soldierforlife.army.mil/retirement/blog. Members of the Air Force can now visit myairforcebenefits.us.af.mil.