By Mr. Kevin Stabinsky (IMCOM)May 23, 2011
To honor the years of service given by military retirees, Fort McPherson hosted its annual Retiree Appreciation Day (RAD) May 21 at the Fort McPherson Post Theater.
Like previous RADs, the event was a chance for retirees to have fellowship with one another over coffee and donuts and learn about services offered to them by the installation.
However, due to BRAC, the focus of this year's RAD was shifted toward how the upcoming closures of Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem would affect retirees.
Howard Butler, U.S. Army Garrison deputy commander, took time to inform the retirees of the current timelines of base closure. He pointed out major areas of impact such as the closure of the Fort Gillem Commissary July 1, the closure of the Fort McPherson Commissary Aug. 1 and the end of ID card services that same day, among others.
While Butler shared this bad news about the closure of many of the systems local retirees rely on at Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem, he also left them with some positive news. Speaking of the DoD enclave that will remain at Fort Gillem, he assured retirees they will have a friend there.
"After the gates lock, help is just a phone call away," said Butler, who will be the enclave manager. The benefits of that friendship are being felt now, Butler said. Knowing that many retirees use the commissaries for grocery shopping, and that the Fort Gillem Commissary closure would negatively affect many, he said he is working to try to get the Fort McPherson Commissary to extend their hours to six days a week, with a goal of opening the commissary for business on Saturdays.
As for other services, retirement service officers (RSO) from Fort Benning and Fort Gordon where both in attendance to inform retirees on where they could continue to receive their benefits. Fort Gordon will take over 21 counties serviced by Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem, while Fort Benning will take over 24 counties (see sidebar for county listings).
"The same services you get here will be available at Fort Gordon," said Angela Gatson, Fort Gordon RSO, adding updates will be mailed to residents living in the 21 counties Fort Gordon will take over. Gatson also reassured retirees despite the increase in clients, quality of service will not be effective at Fort Gordon due to Fort Jackson, S.C., taking over all of Fort Gordon's South Carolina counties.
Gatson also invited retirees to the Fort Gordon RAD Oct. 29 at 8 a.m. Verna Clemons, Fort Benning RSO, was also on hand to discuss changes, likewise inviting retirees to the Fort Benning RAD Nov 1 at 6:30 a.m. Mary Allen, a retired Air Force master sergeant, said the closure of Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem made her mad, but that the day softened her feelings.
"The deputy commander's (Howard) comments made me feel a lot better," she said. "The fact that they (the garrison) already have a plan to not leave us out in the cold shows the Army cares." Like Allen, Bruce Phillips, a retired Army colonel, said he was saddened by the closure, even if it won't affect him as much as it may other retirees.
Phillips adding it will most likely only affect getting a new ID, but the event let him know where to do that.
"It tugs at your heart to see the base close. There's a lot of old memories," Phillips said. But there are also new memories yet to be made.
To make these memories, Butler invited all the retirees to the various sales, festivities and special events that will be held on Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem over the installations' final months of operation.