FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Nothing pleases me more than having an opportunity to give back to our veterans.

I had the great honor a few weeks ago to present a Columbia-area veteran with the Bronze Star.
What made this presentation so special was that the award came nearly 70 years after Henry Schuessler had earned the award during the World War II Battle of Anzio. When I was asked to do the presentation, I did not hesitate to say yes. Not only was this opportunity to recognize a great patriot a tremendous honor, it was also the right thing to do.

I am not sure how delays like these happen. Sometimes records and paperwork are misplaced, lost and even destroyed as in the case of a 1973 fire at the records center in St. Louis. The good news is that Schuessler has now received his just due and the recognition that he earned for rescuing a wounded comrade from a minefield during World War II. It's very important that we make every effort to recognize the feats of our past veterans, because we present-day Soldiers stand on the shoulders of those veterans who have served before us.

The other interesting point is that as incredible as Schuessler's tale is, his story is just one of many great stories that our veterans have. All that we need to do is make the time to listen. That's one of the big reasons why I take advantage of as many opportunities that I can to engage with our past veterans.

I am bringing this up because the Fort Jackson military family is looking forward to reaching out to our former military members once again this year during our Retiree Appreciation Days. These activities usually take place during the last week of this month. But because of the Easter holiday arriving relatively late this year and some other factors, we have decided to combine Retiree Appreciation Days with our annual Armed Forces Day event May 20-21. The theme for the 53rd Armed Forces Day is "Honoring our service members, past, present and future." The RAD will include events at the golf course and NCO Club May 20. An opening ceremony is scheduled for May 21 at Hilton Field, followed by AFD events. The events usually attract many of our local retirees and veterans.

I enjoy being in the company of vets, and those of you who serve or have served understand what I mean. Many of you will someday realize that the greatest memories of your lives will have occurred while you were in uniform.

Each branch of service has its own special connection to those who wear the uniform specific to that service, but the fact is that veterans from all branches of service can bond. The entire military is one big family, Army bragging rights aside.

Think about it: A person's greatest memories are often those from the time spent in the service and, in many instances, the weeks spent in Basic Combat Training. Put a group of veterans together who are complete strangers and watch what happens. Regardless of their ages, branch of service and experiences, they will soon begin swapping stories and slapping backs as if they had known each other all of their lives. Retiree Appreciation Days is our way of acknowledging the dedication and unselfish sacrifices that so many service members have made for our country. They have endured war, other deployments, countless moves and many challenges that have confronted our nation.
Remember that the Fort Jackson Retirement Services is here and always available to address the needs of retirees from all branches of service and provide a bridge from active duty to retirement.

Again, the Fort Jackson Family extends a warm appreciation and a hearty "thank you" for all who have served. You will always be part of our extended military family, and we will continue to serve you.

Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!