Getting a flu shot was just one of the many different services retirees could partake in during the daylong event held Friday at McGill Training Center.
Tanya Chew, a public health nurse at Kimbrough, said that getting the vaccine is one of the best ways to stay healthy this winter, especially for retirees.
“Retirees are more prone to serious complications [with illnesses],” Chew said. “This event is a way for us to provide retirees with health information in one area. It shows that we support them.”
Betty Galloway, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Richard Galloway, said she and her husband have attended the event for the past four years. For them, getting a flu shot is one of the main draws.
“It's a good way to get an update on everything [we need to know] and it's nice being around other retirees,” said Galloway, who comes to Fort Meade with her husband at least once a week to use the commissary and pharmacy.
“We've been enjoying today very much and look forward to it every year,” she said.
Anna Taylor has been Fort Meade's retiree services officer for the past six years. She helps serve the 32,000 retirees on Fort Meade, in addition to active-duty service members who apply to retire.
“Each year [this event] gets better,” Taylor said. “We have a couple of new vendors. The one that comes to mind right away is Girl Scouts of Central America. They're here looking for retirees who want to volunteer their time.”
Joining Kimbrough and Girl Scouts of Central America were representatives from many other Fort Meade and community organizations who answered questions about the services and programs they provide for retirees.
They included: American Military Retirees Association, The Retired Enlisted Association, Tricare Office, Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities, Armed Forces Retirement Home, University of Maryland University College and the Casualty Assistance Center.
Taylor said that six years ago the event was only bringing in an average of 200 participants. However, Taylor used marketing strategies to spread word of the event. As a result, the number of attendees doubled.
This year, 643 retirees and their family members attended to take advantage of free medical screenings and learn about updated health insurance policies.
Next year, Taylor plans to add a new element to the event.
“We're thinking about maybe doing a retiree ball that Thursday evening [before Retiree Appreciation Day],” Taylor said. “Then we'd have this event the following morning.”
For Taylor, Retiree Appreciation Day is just one way to provide care and support for retirees and their families.
“Its important to be able to give back to the men and women who served,” Taylor said. “This event fosters goodwill between retirees and active-duty service members.”
Getting An Update
Midway through the event, participants boarded shuttle busses for lunch at the Freedom Inn Dining Facility.
They returned to McGill to hear from George W. Owings III, secretary for the Maryland Department of Veteran Affairs.
Retired Col. Bert Rice, acting chairman of the Fort Meade Retiree Council, first spoke about the various publications that retirees should read in order to stay up-to-date on current information.
He gave examples such as the Fort Meade retiree newsletter, Echoes Army newsletter and the “U.S. Army Retiree Handbook.”
“We should be informed and we need to be informed,” Rice told the crowd.
Lt. Col. Gittipong Paruchabutr welcomed retirees and recognized their years of service.
“We are grateful for your tireless service and willingness to share your experiences,” he said. “You are an integral part of what makes Fort Meade a spectacular place. ... You have not stopped giving back to our nation, and we will not stop giving back to you.”
Paruchabutr then introduced Owings, who gave examples of the various Veteran Affairs programs available to Maryland retirees.
He explained the importance of filling out a Certification of Release or Discharge from Active Duty form, which is generally referred to as a DD Form 214.
“The hardest thing to tell a family is that I can't help them because they didn't have their 214,” Owings said.
He asked participants to raise their hands if they were in the Maryland Veteran Affairs system. The best way to get local information, Owings said, is to sign up online for the Maryland VA's biweekly newsletter.
He also urged retirees to check out the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, either as a volunteer or for assisted living placement.
“It has had a rigorous VA inspection and has come out with five stars,” Owings said. “If you are interested in participating in [something new], you'll find it there.”
Owings also discussed the Maryland Veterans Trust Fund and explained that it is available for veterans and retirees in need of financial help.
“What happens to warriors who thought they'd be in for 20 years, but are out before then?” he asked the crowd. “If you know of a veteran or if you have a [financial] situation currently, come forward for help.”
A raffle for prizes followed Owing's remarks. Participants eagerly scanned their ticket as winning numbers were called out.
“It's been great,” said retired Master Sgt. Ralph LeGrande after the program.
This was his third year attending Retiree Appreciation Day.
“I look forward to this event every year,” he said. “You never know what you might miss [if you don't attend.]”