By Jason B. CutshawSeptember 16, 2010
Fort Drum officials showed their gratitude to those who served the country during Retirement Appreciation Day, held Saturday at the New York National Guard Center on post.
The event was open to all veteran and retired service members, as well as their Family Members, from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, U.S. Public Health Service and reserve components.
Participants had an opportunity to learn what services are available to them in the North Country.
The day's events kicked off with an honor guard posting the colors, participants singing the national anthem and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and Bert M. Levesque, Fort Drum retirement service officer, providing welcome remarks.
"We are very pleased with the turnout," Levesque said. "It is very important to bring the issues directly to the community here at Fort Drum so the retirees and veterans who are being serviced through the Retirement Services Office have a hands-on experience and understand what is going with the retirement system and benefits.
"Retiree Appreciation Day is an Army program that was initiated specifically to make sure the retiree community is honored and remembered for their service," he added. "It is also to make sure that they have access to their benefits and to their entitlements. So we do it all in one large benefits fair, and Fort Drum invites all veterans, surviving spouses, Family Members and anyone who thinks they have a Department of Defense benefit so we can review their situation and determine their eligibility and provide them with the benefits they are entitled to."
More than 150 retirees took advantage of the services available and learned about benefits to which they are allowed.
For one special guest, Fort Drum's Retiree Appreciation Day showed that the installation is doing its part in taking care of the service members and their Families who have served to protect the nation.
"I think any time you get a group of retirees together and you can educate them about what they are entitled to, or what assistance is available, it is always important," said retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack Tilley, co-chairman of the Army Chief of Staff Retiree Council. "People are coming up to me and asking me what they can do to be more involved with the retirement community and what they can do for their future. If they serve long enough, they are going to retire, and they have to figure out how to retire. So the more people can come to these events, the more they will know when that time comes."
"The Fort Drum retirement section has done a great job," Tilley added. "This is a great installation with a great community, and I am glad to have the opportunity to be at Fort Drum today."
The day featured information booths from post and community organizations such as the Fort Drum Retirement Services Office, Veterans Affairs, Disabled American Veterans, MEDDAC, Delta Dental, TRICARE Healthnet, Martins Point Healthcare, ID Card Office, Army Emergency Relief, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Legal Assistance Office and Social Security Administration. Participants also had an opportunity to receive information about military funeral and burial honors.
Those in attendance received a brief tour around Fort Drum. They had a chance to eat at one of the dining facilities on post and to visit Fort Drum's USO and Heritage Center.
"I think today's events are spectacular," said Fort Drum's Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. John F. McNeirney. "I think it is important that we recognize the service of our retirees, regardless of branch, here at Fort Drum and the ones in the surrounding communities. They're an enormous asset to the installation, and we can't get that kind of support from just anybody.
"I think it is important to have a one-stop shop where retirees ... and those getting ready to retire can come and learn about the services we provide here at Fort Drum and in the local community," he added. "One thing I have learned today is that we probably need to start educating the active-duty Soldiers about retirement before they actually retire. There is a lot of information, and if we can start educating early, when it comes time to actually step out the door, the Soldiers and Families are ready to take that next step with confidence."