By Col. Deborah GraysMay 23, 2011
On Monday, U.S. Army Garrison will host its last monthly retirement ceremony. Like many other "final" events we experience as we draw nearer to closure, this ceremony will bring out a variety of emotions.
First, of course, is a bit of sadness at this being our last event. We have had the honor of conducting retirement ceremonies on this installation for nearly 40 years.
The first recorded retirement event started with the second Fort McPherson garrison commander, Col. George Hawley. The retirement ceremony, then called a retirement parade, was held March 28, 1973, when Col. Tom Reid left the Army after 31 years of service.
The ceremony was held on Hedekin Field and Reid, the deputy post commander, was awarded the Legion of Merit by Maj. Gen. Warren Bennett, the Third Army commanding general at the time. That award recognized Reid's time in service which encompassed World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. This is where the second emotion - awe - comes in.
I cannot help but stand in amazement of those who have given so much to their country. Consider three participants of our final retirement ceremony: Col. Stanley McNeme, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Reginald Hamilton and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Allen Douglas. Each have 33 years in the military.
In the last 10 years alone, they have been available to serve in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. They also served during the Desert Shield/Storm, Just Cause and the Cold War time frames. For more than three decades these Soldiers have answered the call from their nation. They have left the comfort of their homes.
They have missed numerous birthdays, Christmases, and possibly a graduation or two. They were probably absent from more than one anniversary celebration, summer vacations and Family reunions. Anyone who would give so much of themselves deserves recognition for duty to country and selfless service.
Then there's the feeling of loss. Monday's 19 retirees have a combined service of nearly 500 years. They have an amazing amount of valuable experience in such fields as administration, logistics and communications. These retirees have gone through changes in technique and technology.
They have learned to adjust to the changing world they worked and lived in. But, as incredible as the loss of wealth of technical expertise and knowledge is, the vacancy of senior leadership is even more substantial. These retirees have learned to lead from the front and mentor their subordinates. Over their careers, they have lived by the slogan, "Mission first, People always."
Talking care of folks has been constant in everything they've done. And that leads us to our last emotion -hope. The legacy these retirees leave behind is a technically and tactically proficient work force that will continue to carry the Army forward into the coming years. Although those leaving will be missed by their comrades, they haven't left a void in the Army system.
They've left an opportunity for the next generation to excel. Hosting retirement ceremonies is a great honor for me as a commander. It will be a pleasure to recognize these 19 comrades in arms for their faithful service and bid them God speed as they embark on the next step in life's journey.