RAMSTEIN, Germany — About 650 people affiliated with the military retirement community across the garrison footprint attended the annual Retiree Appreciation Day co-hosted by U.S. Army Garrison Rhineland-Pfalz and the 86th Airlift Wing Oct. 13 at Ramstein Air Base Officers' Club.
The event kicked off with an official ceremony where retirees heard from the big three Kaiserslautern Military Community commanders and representatives from federal benefits agencies. Garrison Commander Col. Reid E. Furman was the first commander to welcome the crowd.
"This day is dedicated to all of you," said Furman during his remarks. "I salute your service and all that you continue to bring to forefront our community. I look forward to the day that my family and I will join the ranks of the military retired."
After the remarks, a question and answer session and a few special recognitions, the ceremony closed with a RAD favorite - the youngest and oldest retirees joining the commanders to cut the ceremonial cake.
The end of the ceremony did not mark the end of day – not by a longshot. Just outside the O-club’s main ballroom was a crowd of people waiting for the information fair and vaccine clinic to begin.
An event of this size couldn’t have been done without the help of volunteers and private donations – all coordinated by a small planning committee consisting of full-time Army and Air Force employees, service members and, of course, military retirees residing in the area. According to the head of that committee, Erik Thomsen – whose full-time duty is the garrison’s casualty manager and post-retirement service officer, said a RAD of this size wouldn’t have been possible without the committee and assistance from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the 86th Airlift Wing.
“I can’t say enough good things about the committee that came together,” said Thomsen. “It truly was a team effort and I couldn’t be more proud of this…it far exceeds what we had in mind this year.”
According the Thomsen, attendance nearly doubled that of last year’s RAD. He said this event is such a popular one because it gives attendees who may be having a problem with their federal benefits, Social Security or Veteran Affairs for example, the opportunity to meet representatives in person. They also can receive flu and COVID-19 vaccines and be put in touch with the Army medical community.
Retired Sgt. Major Roy Ogborn, who retired from the Army in 1988 and now resides in Heidelberg, said it’s tricky being a military retiree in Germany and that this event gives him a chance to network and meet the people who can help him out.
“Everybody’s pitched in and doing their thing. If you need help, ‘here’s my number.’ If you need a service, ‘come and see us.’ It’s there,” he said.
Thomsen said aside from the important information gathering aspect of the RAD, it’s simply a good time to get everyone together.
“They can see their battle buddies…they can rekindle old friendships and they can talk with other folks that have the same mindset.”
Next year’s RAD is scheduled for Oct. 18.