FORT BUCHANAN, PR -- Fort Buchanan US Army Garrison in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Puerto Rico hosted a Retiree Appreciation Day, Claims Clinic, Veterans and Families Benefits Outreach event attended by approximately five hundred retirees and their families at the installation’s Community Club and Conference Center’s Grand Ballroom November 10, 2022.
Seventy-six Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) and, affiliated federal and civil agencies provided information to military Retirees, Veterans, Service Members, their Families and Survivors from 8 a.m. till 2 p.m. They provided services such as personal assistance in claims processing and inquiries; burial and memorial benefits; compensation; pensions; appeals; life insurance; eligibility and enrollment; education benefits; Veteran Readiness and employment and more.
The master of ceremony for the event Association of the United States Army Puerto Rico Chapter President, Chief Warrant Officer (Ret) Cristino Lozada and guest speakers were, in representation of the Fort Buchanan Garrison Commander Col. Tomika M. Seaberry, Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Roderick W. Hendricks; Deputy Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Brian Mandock; on behalf of San Juan Veterans Affairs Regional Office Executive Director, Leanne Weldin, Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) Officer, Jose A. Vega and Puerto Rico and Morovis VA National Cemeteries Director Juan Nieves.
“Thank you all for attending, we have here so many great veterans and supporting organizations here today. We want you today to walk away with an abundance of information. I am honored to be here to carry the guidon of the services available for our Retirees and Veterans. It was President and General George Washington who said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” Thank you for your service and the sacrifice your families have made. Tell your story!” said Command Sgt. Maj. Hendricks.
“You are the center of this event – not me. I am humbled and honored to be in your presence. This is Retiree Appreciation Day! There’s a much history in this room and Fort Buchanan means a lot to you. A hundred times over, thank you!” said Lt. Col. Mandock.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs, PR thanks the leadership of Fort Buchanan for opening up the installation to this event. The work we do is important because you trust VA to oversee and help you with your well-earned benefits. VA is Vets helping Vets! We want to serve you and are honored every day to do so,” said Vega.
During his remarks, Nieves said, “Please do as Lt. Col. Mandock said, walk out of here knowing all the benefits you have rights to, take advantage of this moment. Thank you.”
There was a ceremony in recognition of former and recently deceased Fort Buchanan Retirement Services Officer Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Santiago S. “Chago” Vazquez. Congressional Record of the US House of Representatives from the office of Congresswoman, the Honorable Jenniffer González Colón and from the Puerto Rico House of Representatives approved Motion 2430 submitted by PR House Representative Hon. José F. Aponte Hernández honoring Chago Vazquez was presented by Lt. Col. Mandock to his surviving son, Alvin and daughter, Jaqueline escorted by her husband Army Command Sgt. Major (Ret.) Sergio Figueroa.
Vazquez served in the military for 23 years and then as a US Army Civil Servant for another 50 years, “Respected as a leader, family man, father, grandfather and restless advocate of Puerto Rico’s veteran and military community, Sargent First Class (Ret.) Santiago is an example and inspiration to be follow by all,” from the Congressional Citation.
Fourteen students from North Point Military Academy located in Vega Baja, PR displayed historical United States Army Uniforms beginning with a pre-Revolutionary War uniform of the National Guard – War of 1812 – Mexican American War – Civil War up to the Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform worn today by Soldiers.
Community Club’s Borinquen Bar and Patio served approximately 400 lunches at a special discounted price to all Retirees and Veterans with musical entertainment by Los Mismos (formerly known as Son Veteranos.)