FORT HOOD, Texas— Serving in the military is not an easy life. There are many times spent away from Family, friends and loved ones, and service members often contemplate staying in, or getting out. For the 17% of the military who stay until retirement, ceremonies aim to show these individuals their service was appreciated.The 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and III Corps held the Phantom Honors retirement ceremony Oct. 30. The ceremony honored five recent retirees who due to COVID-19, were not able to be given the ceremony they deserved.In the Army, people are the number one priority, and the Army must do everything it can to take care of them. Although ceremonies like this can never show the full spectrum of gratitude for years of selfless service, holding them is a tradition and what every retiring Soldier deserves.The 13th ESC Deputy Commander, Col. Matthew Ruedi oversaw the event, and was honored to send the Soldiers off into their next mission in life.“The Soldiers retiring today have made our nation and Army proud,” Ruedi said. “They have fought in the sands of Kuwait and Iraq, along with the mountains of Afghanistan. All of you have been brave, responsible and on point for our nation.”Master Sgt. Lashawnda Cole, who retired after 20 years of service, reflected on what it meant to take off the uniform after all these years.“It’s the best feeling in the world to honorably serve 20 years in the greatest army in the world.”Ruedi applauded the retirees for what they were able to accomplish, and the lives they influenced along the way.“Never backing away from a challenge, training yourself and your units for any contingency our nation faced, and caring for others desiring to make a positive difference while instilling service in something larger than yourselves,” Ruedi exclaimed.After 31 years in the Army, Lt. Col. Ruben Ortiz never forgot his humble beginnings as a Soldier.“In 31 years, I never forgot where I started as a private first class,” Ortiz said. “Through the years, the Army has given me many opportunities I couldn’t get anywhere else. It was a great honor to serve my country in garrison and while deployed.”Each retiree was received a service award, a certificate of retirement from the Chief of Staff of the Army, a certificate of appreciation from the President of the United States and an American flag. If they had family present, the family member received a certificate of appreciation from the Chief of Staff of the Army, and women also received a red rose.Although these storied women and men are retiring from active service, they will always be Soldier for life, Ruedi tipped his hat to them.“As you embark on this next phase, we hope it brings you many rewards, positive challenges and great success,” Ruedi said. “Be sure to take time to enjoy life and all it brings. We’re very proud of each and every one of you. Our sincere best wishes to you and your families on this well-deserved occasion.”