Fort Benning Public Affairs
FORT BENNING, Ga. – Two high-level Army officials are among scheduled speakers for Fort Benning's annual Retiree Appreciation Day, to be presented online Nov. 6.
Scheduled speakers include John T. Hargrove, a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, for the Georgia (West) region, and Mark Overberg, Director of Army Retirement Services, as well as Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Donahoe, commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning.
Also scheduled to speak are retired Army Col. Biff Hadden, Officer Co-Chair of the Fort Benning Retiree Council, and retired Command Sgt. Maj. William M. Grant, the council's NCO Co-Chair.
The event, at which retirees are given updates and other information on various services and policies of importance to them, is normally held at the Benning Club here.
But to avoid the hazards of large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be viewable online starting at 11 a.m. on the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning's Facebook page.
Speakers will appear in recorded videos.
"Last year we did it full-blown at the Fort Benning Supper Club and we had a guest speaker to come in to speak and the whole set-up was there," said Grant.
"There will not be any" in-person contact this year because of the pandemic, he said. "No formal gathering that would bring a lot of people together. Social distancing becomes important."
Retiree Appreciation Day is geared to those retired from careers as uniformed members of the military, or who were medically retired from uniformed service.
Through its Directorate of Human Resources, USAG Fort Benning serves military retirees – regardless of which branch of service they retired from – within an area that takes in about half of Georgia and about a third of Alabama, said Hadden.
More than 46,000 retirees from uniformed military careers live within that area, he said.
Issues typically of concern to retirees include on-post Exchange and commissary services, health care, and ID cards, and any policy or other developments that may affect them, said Grant.
Accordingly, scheduled presentations include those by representatives of Fort Benning's Main Exchange, commissary, the garrison's ID Card section, its Retirement Services Office, and Martin Army Community Hospital.
"Every year you're adding new retirees to the population who do not understand all of the benefits and programs that are available to the retired population," said Hadden. "It's new to them. And the other equally important aspect is that every year we have changes in policies and procedures. Perfect example: this year we're dealing with COVID-19 and the issues of ID cards."
As one of the speakers, Hargrove will bring "the voice of the Secretary of the Army out at the community level to say 'Hey, I care about those that have served, just like I care about those that are serving.'" said Hadden. "And just make sure that folks understand how important they are to the Army."
Before the pandemic, the annual event was more than a chance to get practical, timely information of help to retirees. It was also a chance at "renewal of their Fort Benning ties, and a chance just to chat with some of the folks that they may have served with in the past," said Hadden.
The event draws retirees from within the Georgia-Alabama region but also from beyond it, he said.
"Three years ago we had two couples travel in from Arizona," said Hadden. "We've had them come in from Texas. We've had them come down from Michigan and New York – Fort Drum," he said.
And past events have also brought some who were not retired from uniformed military careers but from civilian service with the military, Hadden said.
"We do have several that really enjoy coming to the Retiree Appreciation Day and they're not restricted. It really winds up becoming a first come, first served."
Retiree Appreciation Day, whether in-person or online, also reminds retirees that the military, including, in this case, Fort Benning, is ready to support them, said Hadden.
"Benning," he said, "supports all of those veterans and retirees to some degree, in this larger area, who come here to use the recreational services or come to use the PX, the commissary, hospital pharmacy if they're qualified. So, they've historically wanted to get that message out again: 'We care about you. If you have problems, let us know.'
"It is a changing military, it's a changing Army," said Hadden."And we've got a new issue we're dealing with this year," he said of the pandemic. "But, we're still providing support to you, and we just want you to know that."