By Dijon Rolle, USAG Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg Public AffairsSeptember 16, 2010
HEIDELBERG, GERMANY - With only a few weeks left before the big day, it's pretty safe to say the majority of Richard McKeller's waking thoughts have been completely consumed by the ongoing preparations for this year's Retiree Appreciation Day at the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion in Heidelberg.
McKeller, U.S. Army Garrison Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg Retirement Services officer, is responsible for helping organize the annual event, which draws hundreds of military retirees from across Europe. He expects an even larger turn-out this year when the event kicks off 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 16.
"This is important because it gives us, the community, a chance to say thank you to those that have gone before us," McKeller said. "It also gives our retirees an opportunity to address their concerns personally to one or more of the representatives that will be there."
McKeller says he's honored to be able to give back to the retiree community and provide services like these to those who served.
"I'm a retiree myself, and I just hope there continues to be organizations and events like this to help keep me informed," McKeller said.
The retired command sergeant major hung up his uniform a little over a year ago and admits retirees living overseas can often face some unique challenges.
"The biggest challenge I think is just keeping them updated about their benefits ... a lot of our older retirees do not have access to a computer and things of that nature. So this is an information venue not just for retirees here in Heidelberg but throughout Europe," he said.
McKeller also said there are differences in some of the benefits retirees have access to when living overseas due to lack of availability and Status of Forces Agreement restrictions.
Representatives from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, legal services, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration will be on-site to assist retirees and family members and make updates to the retired and annuity pay system.
The Heidelberg Medical Department Activity will provide blood pressure checks, vision screenings and influenza vaccinations.
The Patrick Henry Village Dental Clinic will provide general screening services on a first-come first-served basis.
Retirees and family members must sign up for the screenings at the dental registration table.
Retirees from outside the Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg military community should bring their dental records with them if possible.
ID cards also will be issued and personnel records checked to ensure retirees are in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System database.
Retirees also will be able to register their ID cards in the Installation Access Control System.
Retirees who want to suspend survivor benefit plan payments will need to provide a copy of their spouse's death certificate or a certified English translation of their divorce decree to stop payments.
Retirees should bring all of their personal documentation with them such as ID cards, bank account information, death certificates, Social Security numbers, addresses with postal codes and any other documents they may require to make updates or corrections to their personal information.
The night before the event, the Association of the United States Army will sponsor an ice breaker in the Copper Lounge at the Village Pavilion at 6 p.m.
Retiree Appreciation Day is open to retirees and surviving spouses from all branches of service as well as active-duty service members and their families.
Registration is free and runs from 8 a.m.-1 p.m., and lunch will be provided by the American Red Cross Heidelberg office.