Fort Detrick opened its doors to honor our military retiree community by hosting a Military Retiree Appreciation Day on Sept. 21.
The event was open to all military retirees, their spouses, and military retiree surviving spouses.
Over 45 vendors and informational table displays lined the Jennifer Odom Fitness Center. They provided information on numerous programs and resources available to retirees, including higher education, equine therapies, service canines, insurance, and healthcare.
Garrison Commander, Col. Ned Marsh opened the event by thanking everyone for their attendance and spoke briefly about the sacrifices and fortitude to get to the place where one can hold the title of “retiree” and what makes them unique.
“It’s a marathon. It takes a lot to become a retiree. You have to have grit, you have to have determination, you have to have the perseverance to endure the long game every day, every decade until you reach the end and you become a retiree,” said Marsh.
Marsh described a recent graduation for Frederick County Fire and Rescue Services, where he was asked to speak about creating a successful career and pointed out how those words applied to the retirees in attendance.
“I told them it’s made each day, every day, and putting those days together into years, then into decades, and suddenly, in the end, you find yourself with a successful career. And that, too, is the mark of a retiree, and each of you deserves the recognition.”
Keynote speakers for the event included Maryland Secretary of Veteran Affairs, Honorable Anthony Woods, Mark Overberg, director of Army Retirement Services, Army G1, and Ms. Phuong Tong, representing The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Region III. All three shared valuable information in their respective areas and provided insight into what is coming.
Honorable Woods provided updates on Maryland’s initiatives that will benefit retirees and keep them in the state, including tax breaks, healthcare benefits and upcoming Veteran retirement homes coming to the state.
In Maryland, one in six people who commit suicide is a veteran. As a veteran himself, preventing suicide is an effort that Gov. Wes Moore is dedicated to and he has launched the “Ask A Question Campaign.” This campaign is one suicide prevention strategy that encourages human services professionals, state and local government, and community providers to ask people whether they or a loved one have served in the military. In a recent review of data, it was recognized that of those who committed suicide, 40 percent of them saw their primary physicians within the 30 days prior. By working to educate primary care providers to better recognize the signs of suicide, the state hopes to eliminate this issue.
Another initiative the state launched for military families is called the Maryland Joining Forces Project. The project is a free, statewide legal telephone hotline specifically for low-income individuals who have served in any branch of the military. Callers receive direct and immediate access to legal assistance and brief advice on a wide range of civil legal issues. The project focuses on areas that are real challenges to military-connected communities, including spouse employment, food insecurity, and health, and wellness, all built around veterans. For information, visit the Joining Forces Project website at https://www.mdlab.org/get-help-services/joining-forces-project/
Wood’s legislative updates covered military retirement pay, healthcare, and future Veteran retirement homes. In the recently passed Keep Our Heroes Home Act, up to 20% of retiree pay is exempt in Maryland for retirees over 55. That number was increased for those under 55 as well. Another act recently passed was the Healthcare for Heros Act. This act specifically benefits the Maryland National Guard members, and they will now have Tricare Select paid for by Maryland.
Lastly, the US Dept of Veteran Affairs estimates that Maryland needs 1108 beds for retirees. Charlotte Hall, in southern Maryland, had its share of difficulties but will be renovated soon, and the number of beds will increase to 450. In Sykesville, groundbreaking is expected in 18 months to construct a 128-bed facility with the intent of opening in the second half of 2027. Finally, a potential third location in Perry Point, north of Baltimore, is being explored.
Overall, the event went extremely well, and many attendees said it was just what they wanted. After a few years of not hosting the event, a global pandemic, and many changes, the comradery was evident, and attendees were thrilled to be back on Fort Detrick.