By REBECCA SALLEE
About 200 area military retirees converged on Redstone Arsenal Thursday and Friday for the 51st annual Retiree Appreciation Day events.
It was the first fully in-person RAD since 2019, due to the pandemic.
They came for the swag: giveaways included everything from magnets and pens to “Bible sticks,” portable audio versions of the New Testament. They came for the flu shots. But most of all, they came for the information.
On Thursday, retirees were invited to renew their identification cards, consult legal services about wills and other matters, and change their pin numbers through the Army Military Finance office.
Friday’s schedule included speeches from Brig. Gen. Christine Beeler, commander of Army Contracting Command; Garrison Commander Col. Brian Cozine; Col. Wendy Gray, commander of Fox Army Health Center; Paul Frost, a retired captain, of the Military Officers Association of America; Michelle Sanders of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs; and Herman Watkins of the Alabama National Cemetery.
Attendees were invited to an indoor sidewalk sale at the Commissary, and received cake and gift bags at the Post Exchange, followed by free lunch at the Community Activity Center.
The afternoon’s agenda included free flu shots provided by staff from Fox Army Health Center. By midafternoon, several dozen shots had been administered, said Maj. Lakesha Williams, a registered nurse at Fox.
“People don’t like needles, but they’ve been excited to get their flu shots,” she said. “We thank them for their service and we thank them for ours.”
James Moore of Huntsville, a retired lieutenant colonel, said the shot was painless.
“I didn’t even feel it,” he said. “I’m not sure she put it in.”
In another room, staff from the Wellness Center at Fox provided blood pressure checks and distributed educational materials on breast cancer awareness, behavioral health and pharmaceutical services.
Maj. Victoria Ijames, a social worker at Fox and the Redstone director of psychological health, said retirees were especially interested to learn about Tricare’s telemental health services, which allow them to access counseling services via their home computers.
Information tables in the main activity center were manned by representatives of organizations from both on and off-post that offer services pertinent to retirees.
Tameka Adams, a social worker at the Vet Center, said her organization provides “adjustment counseling services for vets, service members and families.”
The organization is located downtown and is federally funded under Veterans Affairs, she said.
Michelle Sanders, an assistant veterans service officer for the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, said her organization assists with applications for benefits, adding that many vets “feel helpless.”
Along with information, visitors to her table received pill sorters, stress balls, key chains replicating dog tags, and gun locks.
Also on hand were representatives of Redstone’s MWR Library, Fire and Emergency Services, Auto Skills Center; and Sports, Fitness and Aquatics.
Lori Ciranni, director of the latter, said many retirees were not aware the Aquatics Center had reopened. “They were pleased,” she said.
Olivia Pierce, financial readiness program manager, represented Army Community Service and its umbrella of assistance programs.
Her most popular giveaways were color maps of the Arsenal and financial books titled “Smart Couples Finish Rich.” She ran out of books, but said more are available at ACS.
Dorothy May, outreach coordinator at Bicentennial Chapel, and Elaine Lewis, a parishioner, said the Bible sticks were a hit for retirees who like to combine spirituality with exercise.
“You can put them in your ears, take a walk and enjoy the Bible,” May said.
Oscar Polk of Madison, a retired command sergeant major who later worked for the U.S. Postal Service, said he attends Retiree Appreciation Day as often as possible.
“The best thing was talking to the hospital commander (Col. Wendy Gray), clarifying some issues,” he said.
Betty Anderson, retirement services officer at Redstone, said the two-day event was “swell,” considering it was the first in-person event in three years.
“The turnout was good. The speakers put out great information about important changes,” she said.
The Retirement Services office is located at 3494 Honest John Road. For more information, call 842-2719.