FORT HOOD, Texas - This sprawling, Central Texas installation hosted its 47th annual Retiree Appreciation Day activities, Oct. 28-29, though torrential rain scuttled a golf tournament on the 28th.
Hosted and coordinated by U.S. Army Garrison - Fort Hood’s Retirement Services Office, the two-day event returned after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a suspension of the annual gathering of military retirees, where services are provided, information is available and camaraderie shared.
“This is a joy to bring back because we are giving back to the best Soldiers ever,” Lorraine Shannon, chief of the Fort Hood Retirement Services Office, said. “Hopefully, today we’ll get a lot of the retirees to return so that we can show our appreciation to them.”
Events on Oct. 29 began with breakfast at the Lone Star Conference Center, followed by an opening ceremony in the Grande Ballroom, which included a performance by the Fort Hood Noncommissioned Officer Academy of “I Am a Sergeant,” a dramatic look back on the impact of the NCO Corps from the Revolutionary War to present day using uniforms from each period. Music was provided by members of the 1st Cavalry Division Band for the ceremony.
USAG-Fort Hood’s Command Sgt. Maj. Calvin Hall welcomed the retirees in his opening remarks, urging them to take advantage of services available from a variety of sources, including the Fort Hood Legal Services Office, the Identification Card Facility and the Health Fair at Carl R. Darnall Army Medication Center.
“It’s good to see all y’all’s smiling faces here today,” Hall said, “and I hope today is a rewarding day for you.”
Among the guest speakers at the event was CRDAMC Commander Col. Daniel J. Moore.
“It is an honor and a privilege to serve with you all and have the opportunity to do this fair,” Moore said of the Health Fair at the hospital, which opened from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. “We talked about it (doing this) last year. We’d done some planning and we got hit with the (COVID-19) Delta wave and we had to stop everything. It was a disappointment, I think for all of us, that we couldn’t do it. I’ve got a team at the hospital that is ready to go. I’ve got a group that is very excited. They were setting up last night, and they look forward to seeing y’all over there.”
Near the conclusion of the opening ceremony, two area retirees were announced as this year’s Honoree Retiree. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey, former III Armored Corps command sergeant major and the first to hold the position as senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was the first honoree announced, though he could not be present for the ceremony.
Retired Staff Sgt. John D. Footman, though, was present to receive his Texas-shaped plaque from Fort Hood Soldier for Life Retiree Council Co-Chairmen retired Brig. Gen. Randy Anderson and retired Sgt. Maj. Jerry Hernandez.
In his remarks, Anderson noted that Fort Hood supports 175 counties, nearly 70% of the state of Texas, and applauded the efforts of the volunteers from the retiree council and the support from the post’s Directorate of Human Resources. He thanked the council and all the volunteers who helped make Retiree Appreciation Day activities a reality this year.
“After a two-year layoff, that’s a whole life cycle in an Army unit. We’ve all had to relearn things post-COVID,” Anderson said, adding that the council will continue to work to make next year’s event even better.
One of the more popular stops by retirees, as it has been during every Retiree Appreciation Day that preceded it, was the Fort Hood ID Card Facility.
“A lot of people (retirees) wait for this day to come in for their ID cards,” said James Butler, supervisor and site security manager for the ID Card Facility, which offered cake, cupcakes, coffee and other soft drinks for its patrons while they waited. “So many of the elders appreciate being able to come in on a Saturday, spend time, eat some snacks, drink some coffee and get their ID card.”
Butler said he’s been taking part in supporting retirees on these special days since 2009. He enjoys it, he said, and so does his staff.
“This is just a select few of my staff,” he said. “But everybody wanted to come (help).”
Another popular stop was CRDAMC’s Health Fair, where Moore said, “… we’ll have 35 stations where you can meet our hospital staff and our Soldiers and learn how to navigate the latest for the provider health network and health services.”
Heavy rains on Oct. 28 not only cancelled a golf tournament. It also prevented the 1st Cavalry Division’s Horse Cavalry Detachment from conducting a demonstration for the retirees at their stables the following afternoon. Despite the muddy conditions, retirees and their families could still take a tour of the stables that day.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Columbus Davis completed his service at Fort Hood in 1997 and settled in Killeen. He set up a large display of unit crests in the Grand Ballroom of the Lone Star Conference Center for the Oct. 29 opening ceremony. Many of those crests were donated by Soldiers reporting for duty at the Great Place when he served with the 21st Replacement Detachment during his final years of service. He said the crests are a great conversation starter, and it’s what brings him back nearly every year.
“I’m excited to be here on Fort Hood looking at these old guys … and gals,” he said. “It’s the camaraderie.”