Almost 40 years after starting his career at Fort Sill, Okla., as a mail clerk, Bernard Valdez, the Mission Installation Contracting Command-Fort Sill director, said his farewell to friends and colleagues and joined the ranks of the recently retired.Members of the Mission Installation Contracting Command-Fort Sill didn't think there was cause for celebration. His employees had a different plan and sent him off in proper fashion at his favorite spot on post-the Fort Sill Golf Course.With roots at Fort Sill, Valdez said his career took a turn when an office romance and ensuing marriage resulted in a vacant job position. At that time, it was against regulations for married couples to work together so one of the individuals was moved to another office and another position creating an opportunity for Valdez."I walked into the contracting office and a lady named Phyllis Ladyman hired me. I don't think I was even her third choice, but she hired me," Valdez said.Raised in nearby Lawton, Valdez also met his wife, the former Barbara Fisher, there. Working in contracting has a very rewarding experience for Valdez and he was able to give people in the community jobs that needed them while making sure Soldiers and their families were taken care of.An avid golfer, Valdez plans to spend more time perfecting his game."Anybody that has a hole dedicated to him is probably on the golf course more than he should be," joked Col. Raymond Lacey, Fort Sill garrison commander. Lacey said as a director, Valdez was gracious enough to share his wisdom in contracting with him as he's done with so many commanders before.During his career, Valdez was instrumental in implementing the government credit card program here and also helped with contracts on Fort Chaffee, Ark., in 1975 when Vietnamese refugees were being processed there and again in the 1980s when Cuban refugees came through. When asked why he decided to retire, in jest he said he knew when he realized some of the ties he owned were older than the people that work for him."Paisley is not coming back," he said.All kidding aside, Valdez said he felt it was time to retire and looks forward to the new beginnings. Valdez said he was especially grateful for the time he spent as director, a position he's held since 1996 after then Col. Jim Russell selected him for the position."Colonel Russell selected me to be the guy. One decision of probably thousands he made, but it's actually been a gift that he gave to me, a gift that I've enjoyed tremendously. Thank you. Thank you to my coworkers, my fellow directors, people that have retired before me. Thank you Fort Sill."His mother worked for Post Laundry on Fort Sill and his father helped construct in the 1930s the very building in which he's spent so many years working."I guess that's why I stayed so long. This is home, and I didn't really want to move anywhere else," Valdez said. "I was fortunate that my supervisors liked what I was doing and mentored me and prepared me to advance to the next career level."