By Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith, Fort Carson MountaineerFebruary 17, 2010
FORT CARSON, Colo.-The military retiree community in the El Paso County area is staying active and doing what it can to help not only their own, but active-duty members and their Families as well.
Many retirees leave the military and lose their connection to the service they spent so many years serving in. Volunteering is a way to stay connected and continue to be a part of something.
"Once you're military, you carry that sense of belonging, a sense of connectivity to the Soldiers," said Joey Bautista, the Fort Carson Army Volunteer Corps Manager. "I think that's what happened. They want to come back. Because one way or another they want to fill the gap."
According to Bautista, Fort Carson, with a little more than 3,500 volunteers, has the largest volunteer force in the Army. About eight percent of that work force - about 450 - is retired military.
Jim Collins, who retired as a sergeant first class with more than 20 years in the Army, didn't want to sit at home all day doing nothing. He wanted to occupy his time working with Soldiers again and volunteering afforded him that opportunity.
"When I decided that I wanted to volunteer, I knew I was going to volunteer here on Fort Carson," Collins said. "I think I'm still helping Soldiers. So that makes it worth coming in for."
Collins has been volunteering about three days a week at the Army Community Service building since last February, and he feels that it's something that all retirees should consider doing as a way of giving back to the military community.
"Guys complain that they have nothing to do. Well come on down here," Collins said. "I think it's good. All retirees should look into (volunteering)."
Donating their free time to the military is not the only way that the retiree community is staying active though. The Fort Carson Retiree Council, chaired by Lonny Cupp, works on a number of projects that help retirees, active duty military and Family members alike.
"We are the liaison between the retiree community and the garrison commander, and the division commander, and ultimately the chief of staff of the Army," said Cupp. "The council's really taken up issues that impact not only on the retirement community, but also the active-duty component and the reserve component as well."
According to Cupp, the council has partnered with the American Legion, the Huey 091 Foundation, and a number of other organizations to provide services like getting motorized wheelchairs to severely handicapped veterans, providing welcome home socials for returning troops and sending Family members of deceased Soldiers to Disneyland.
"That's what we're trying to do as retirees, is keep people involved," said Cupp. "But also, we let the troops know that we've been there, we understand."
Cupp encourages retirees to stay involved by volunteering their time on post, at an organization, or by becoming a member of any number of associations for retired veterans. These organizations take part in lobbying Congress and fighting for benefits that affect the active-duty Soldiers and the retirees as well.
"There's a whole lot of organizations that they can join," Cupp said. "If they're just a member of one, for every member that each one of those organizations have on its roles, the congressional leaders look at the fact that they can influence five to eight others."
Being retired doesn't have to mean one stops working. It can be an opportunity to support the community and continue to serve the country, just in a new way.