Story and photos by Rick Emert
The Mountain Post community took time Saturday to show its appreciation to those who have hung up their uniforms after decades of serving their country.
Fort Carson’s Retiree Appreciation Day at the Special Events Center drew more than 1,000 retired servicemembers and their Family members from Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho, said Leona Abdullah-Allen, Retirement Services officer.
The day is practical for retirees because it provides a lot of services in one location and provides shuttle service to others, such as the identification card section, and McMahon Auditorium where several briefings took place. Among the services with representatives at the event were Veterans Affairs; Evans Army Community Hospital; Dental Activity; Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; Vehicle Registration Office; Retirement Services; and Army Community Service.
Members of Fountain-Fort Carson High School’s JROTC were on hand to assist and visit with the retirees.
“I’ve participated in the Retiree Appreciation Day four times, and it is one of my favorite volunteer events,” said JROTC cadet Lt. Col. Vania Hudson, a Fountain-Fort Carson senior. “I like talking to them about their past experiences in the military and
their war stories, and they offer me advice since I plan to join the military after high school.”
The event included a continental breakfast and a brunch served by the Fort Carson Commissary.
While the event is designed to be practical for retirees, it’s also a good chance for socializing, Abdullah-Allen said.
“They get camaraderie from seeing other retirees that they might have served with. They really seem to enjoy that interaction with other ‘old’ Soldiers,” she said.
The event is organized by Retirement Services and the Fort Carson Retiree Council, which is chaired by Lonny Cupp, a retired command sergeant major.
Cupp said the council is always looking for volunteers and holds monthly meetings at 9 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the Cheyenne Shadows Golf Course snack bar. The council produces two retiree newsletters a month and lobbies on behalf of retirees and active-duty servicemembers in the areas of pay and benefits, Cupp said.
The types of services available at the event vary from year to year, Cupp said.
“We go through past Retiree Appreciation Days to see which services were most popular and beneficial to the retirees. We also look at what issues are currently affecting retirees to try to have services available for that,” Cupp said. “We try to look outside the box and think, ‘What would I need?’ The flu shots are a big draw, but people also come to talk to VA and (Defense Finance and Accounting Service). If someone is not getting the right amount of pay, it is helpful to talk to (finance) in person instead of trying to do that over the phone.” he said.
The event was helpful to Army retiree William Burgett and his wife, Sandra.
“This is the first Retiree Appreciation Day we’ve been to since he (William) retired 19 years ago,” Sandra said. “I thought it was very educational, especially with the health-care services. There was information here on everything we need.”
The Burgetts had lived in Indiana since William retired until recently moving to Colorado Springs, and the lack of
Army posts in the area made it difficult to get retiree assistance. He said he was excited about the Fort Carson event.
“The people have been very helpful,” William said. “I’ve noticed a big difference in how retirees are treated in Colorado Springs. The people here really go all out for the military and retirees.”