ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – Four Soldiers and three Army Civilians retired from Army service in a retirement ceremony here in Heritage Hall on March 7. The retirees dedicated a combined total of 200-plus years of service, and now they will begin the next chapter of their lives.
The ceremony, which includes all of Rock Island Arsenal’s major tenant organizations, First U.S. Army, U.S. Army Sustainment Command and U.S. Army Contracting Command – Rock Island, was hosted by Maj. Gen. David Wilson, commanding general, ASC and senior mission commander of RIA.
Wilson began the ceremony by recognizing the retirees’ families for the support they provided throughout the retirees’ careers.
“I want to say something about family support up-front because I don't believe that our families get near enough credit for what they contribute over the course of a career – and that applies both to military members and our Civilian employees,” he said. “Without you, and without the sacrifices you made, they wouldn’t have made it as far as they did.”
Wilson then went on to share some encouragement with the retirees. “It’s been said that retirement is not the end of the road, but rather the beginning of the open highway. New and exciting possibilities lie ahead for all seven of you – your life’s journey continues – and I hope it takes you to marvelous new places.”
Those retiring were: Lt. Col. Edward Ortiz, First U.S. Army; Maj. Larry Kemp, ACC-RI; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Morris, ASC; Sgt. Maj. Jon Greer, First U.S. Army; Jorge Chavez-Rey, ACC-RI, Melinda Verstraete, ASC; and Paul Levesque, ASC.
Wilson, assisted by Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge Escobedo, presented each retiree with awards and honors.
Brief biographies of each retiree follows:
- Lt. Col. Edward Ortiz, from Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, has served in the Army for 26 years. He will retire as the deputy chief of staff G-6 (Information Management) at First Army, a position he has held at numerous installations. A few highlights of Ortiz’s career include assignments at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Kuwait; Belgium; Fort Drum, New York; and Fort Hood, Texas, as well as three deployments – twice to Iraq (2005-2010) and once to Afghanistan (2020). After retirement, Ortiz plans stay in the Quad Cities and continue his passion for service by volunteering in the local community.
- Maj. Larry Kemp commissioned out of Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2009, and has served for 14 years. He is retiring as a procuring contracting officer at ACC-RI. Throughout his career, he held positions globally in Germany, South Korea and Fort Riley, Kansas, as well as deployed twice to Afghanistan and then Jordan in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve, respectively. Although his time as a Soldier is ending, he plans to stay in the Quad Cities and continue serving as an Army Civilian with ACC-RI.
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Morris enlisted out of Longview, Washington in 2000 and is retiring as the ASC G-2 (Intelligence and Security) chief of production after 23 years of service to the nation. Prior to his work at ASC, Morris served as the Division Fusion chief for the 1st Armored Division Fort Bliss, Texas. He has deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2012, Iraq in 2004 and 2006, and served overseas tours to Poland in 2018 and 2020. After retirement, he plans to settle down with his family in Colorado and continue his career in the intel community.
- Sgt. Maj. Jon Greer enlisted out of Waukegan, Illinois, and will be retiring from the Army after 27 years of service, culminating as the G-6 Sgt. Maj. At First Army. Throughout his career, Greer has held a variety of positions at Army installations to include Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Drum, and Fort Bliss. He also deployed to Iraq three times - in 2004, 2008, and 2015. After retirement, he plans to take some time to relax, before exploring career opportunities as an Army Civilian.
- Jorge Chavez-Rey, a resident of Davenport, Iowa, has dedicated 35 years of his life to federal service, as both a Soldier and an Army Civilian at ACC-RI. Chavez-Rey retired from active duty in 2014 after serving for 28 years. His military career culminated as the G-1 (Human Resources) sergeant major at ASC. After retiring from the military, he went on to serve as a Civilian contract specialist at ACC-RI for eight years. Chavez-Rey plans to spend his second retirement traveling and enjoying life.
- Melinda Verstraete, a resident of Port Byron, Illinois, is retiring with 41 years of service. She is retiring as the Army Materiel Command/ASC Always a Soldier program coordinator, where she worked to assist Soldiers in their transition to Civilian positions. In her retirement, she hopes to continue to make a difference in the lives of those around her. Verstraete plans to enjoy life by traveling and spending time with family, while also growing a small dog biscuit business, continuing her studies, participating in projects that protect the environment and wildlife, and volunteering at schools and nursing homes.
- Paul Levesque, a resident of Moline, Illinois, began his career in 1982 and is now retiring after more than 40 years of government service as a public affairs specialist at ASC. Throughout his career, he has served in various commands and locations, including Texarkana, Texas and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Levesque was described as a true jack-of-all-trades, having served in almost every public affairs role imaginable, including, but not limited to, speech writing, photography, news writing, editing and archiving. In his retirement, Levesque said he plans to travel, write, and spend his children’s inheritance.
In closing, Wilson recognized the retirees one last time.
“You – our retirees – chose a life and a career of service. You dedicated your lives for a combined total of 208 years of service to our nation. For that, we are forever grateful,” he said.
“Good luck to our retirees, and best wishes to their families and friends and everyone else who supported them along the way. Thank you, God bless you all and Army strong!”