(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood leaders hosted a virtual Retiree Appreciation Day town hall event Sept. 10, livestreamed on Facebook.

Lea Ann Starmer, assistant Retirement Services officer, welcomed everyone to Fort Leonard Wood’s 42nd annual Retiree Appreciation Day, where, like last year, many events — the RAD dinner, health fair, golf tournament and bus tour — had to be cancelled due to COVID-19.

“The safety of your health is important to us,” Starmer said.

Col. Jeff Paine, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander, thanked everyone for watching online.

“I appreciate your patience and your perseverance as we continue to navigate through these trying times,” he said.

Paine also thanked the retired service members, “for your lifetime of service to our nation and to our people.”

“You are part of the inspiration of the current generation of young men and women who have chosen to serve America as members of the profession of arms,” he added. “The accomplishments of today are built on the success that you had.”

The guest speaker for this year’s event was retired Command Sgt. Maj. Maria Vigil. A former member and co-chair of the Fort Leonard Wood Retiree Council, Vigil served 32 years on active duty and is a former command sergeant major for the 1st Engineer Brigade. She spoke on the importance of retirees to stay connected with their military service by continuing to serve as mentors. She called it, “a bridge that connects two cultures and two communities — connecting our past and our future.”

“When we retire from the military, we exchange our uniforms for civilian clothes; we exchange our active-duty ID card for a retiree ID card, but what we do not exchange are our core values for something easy,” Vigil said. “As retirees, I believe, as you believe, that we have an inherent responsibility to stay connected to our community, just as we are connected to our families. This bridge keeps us connected with patriotism and honor.”

Vigil said she feels there is no better leadership style than what she called, “servant leadership,” and she quoted President John Kennedy’s inauguration speech in January 1961.

“’And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’ This quote from a great American should burn a fire in every American’s belly today as it did 60 years ago,” she said. “What are you waiting for, retirees? This nation is counting on you. I implore you — answer the call again.”

The town hall also provided an opportunity for a panel of the installation’s leaders to answer questions. The first question regarded the Commissary’s early bird hours. They are now called “convenience hours,” and they start at 7 a.m.

“The only difference is we only have self-checkout,” a Commissary representative said.

A representative from General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, Lt. Col. Ed Moten, responded to questions regarding COVID-19 booster shots and flu shots.

Moten mentioned that GLWACH’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic offers booster shots for beneficiaries who are considered immunocompromised. More information on booster shots is available on the GLWACH website. Appointments can be made by calling the appointment line at 866.299.4234.

Flu shots will be available, Moten said, and more information will be released when it’s available. The Fort Leonard Wood community is encouraged to follow the GLWACH Facebook page for additional, up-to-date information.

Mike Beando, director of Human Resources, addressed a question on making appointments at the ID card office, which is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon Thursday.

Beando pointed out that walk-in service is now available every day — no longer just on Wednesdays. The last walk-in is accepted at 2 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

For more information on ID card requirements, call 573.596.0744 or visit the DEERS ID Card web page on Fort Leonard Wood’s official website. To schedule or cancel an appointment, click here.

Questions regarding the process for completing a will and updates on the tax center were answered by Capt. Francisco Hernandez, a legal assistance attorney here.

“The way it works is, you walk in, we’ll hand you a will worksheet,” he said. “Once you complete your worksheet, you give us a call, you schedule an appointment, you come to the office and we’ll go through your worksheet, draft your will and then we schedule a second appointment for the will execution.”

All that is needed is a government-issued Id card, Hernandez added.

As for the tax center, Hernandez said he hasn’t received any guidance yet.

“Stay tuned,” he said.

Call 573.596.0629 or visit the Legal Assistance Office Facebook page for more information on the services they provide.

Paine answered a question regarding the closure of the East Gate, due to construction on the bridge that connects J Highway to Fort Leonard Wood.

“We discovered some structural problems with the concrete undersurface and the rebar there that require greater engineering and reconstruction work to be done,” he said. “We do apologize for the inconvenience. We know that it is not a short drive if you live on the east side of our installation to get around to the Main Gate or the South Gate to get on the installation.”

For more information on the East Gate Bridge construction project, read this article.

Starmer introduced retired Lt. Col. Leslie Dillard, co-chair for the Fort Leonard Wood Retiree Council, who presented a memento to Vigil.

“We thank you for your remarks, for building and sustaining bridges, and our responsibility as retirees to continue to serve our communities,” Dillard said.

Dillard also presented the 2021 Retiree of the Year award to retired Sgt. 1st Class Susan Marshall, who, after retiring from the Army, became an Army civilian human resources specialist at the U.S. Army Prime Power School.

“We are so honored to recognize her today for the work that she does, not just on this post as a GS employee, but what she does for this community,” Dillard said.

Dillard thanked Fort Leonard Wood’s leaders for their time and energy in continuing to support the retiree community. She added that she hopes to see everyone next year, when the Retiree Appreciation Days are scheduled for Sept. 9 and 10, 2022.