Soldiers for life attend RAD 2014

| September 19, 2014 | 0 Comments
Participants at Retiree Appreciation day check out deals offerd by the Armed Forces Recreation Center’s Hale Koa Hotel on Waikiki Beach. AFRC was one of the many displays bringing awareness of services available to Army retirees.

Participants at Retiree Appreciation day check out deals offerd by the Armed Forces Recreation Center’s Hale Koa Hotel on Waikiki Beach. AFRC was one of the many displays bringing awareness of services available to Army retirees.

Story and photos by John Reese
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii
Public Affairs

 

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — They began arriving at the Nehelani before sunrise, here, in battalion strength, before the organizers and participating agencies had even set up their tables.

Some rolled in on wheelchairs; some walked unsteadily with the support of spouses, canes or comrades; and some defied the aging process with a crisp march as they reunited with old battle buddies.

Hundreds of retirees, representing thousands of years of service, attended Retiree Appreciation Day (RAD) 2014, Saturday, to get the latest information on the benefits and services they have earned. They ranged from World War II to continuing operations in Afghanistan, with representatives of every conflict in between.

“Our retirees look forward to this event every year. Many of them show up at 6-6;30, like they did this morning, before we do,” said Matt Matunas, chief, Retirement Services Office, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Directorate of Human Resources. “It’s a good event for them to get in touch with old buddies and find out about the latest legislation affecting retirees and surviving spouses.”

Photo by U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii  Taps is sounded in memoriam of recently passed retirees. Spc. William Hamilton, instrumentalist, Tropic Lightning Band,  renders the mournful bugle call. (Photo has been altered from its original form; background elements have been removed.)

Photo by U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii
Taps is sounded in memoriam of recently passed retirees. Spc. William Hamilton, instrumentalist, Tropic Lightning Band,
renders the mournful bugle call.
(Photo has been altered from its original form; background elements have been removed.)

Sequestration abruptly cancelled RAD 2013, and Matunas had to wave off 40 or so retirees who hadn’t gotten the late word. This year’s event was scaled back a little because of budget restraints.

“Things happen, and that’s part of working for the government,” shrugged Matunas, himself a retired Navy chief petty officer.

Keynote speaker Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander, U.S. Army-Pacific, was unable to attend in person, instead sending a prerecorded situation report to the retirees, adding that he knew the former Soldiers understood that when Washington calls, Soldiers answer. Brooks mentioned a number of senior officers and noncoms who had recently retired or were just about to retire, including his USARPAC command group battle buddy, retired Command Sgt. Major Frank Leota.

“I value retirees. I hope to be one some day,” said Brooks, before introducing Maj. Gen. Edward Dorman III to offer opening remarks in his stead.

One of the retirees, 93-year-old Daniel Carvelho, served in two wars, the occupation of Japan and at the Pentagon.

“I usually come to these meetings every time they have one,” said Carvelho. “I don’t drive any more, so my daughter brings me here. I like to keep up to date on what’s going on.”

Rema Reyes, Directorate of Human Resources assistant, sets up the Retiree Appreciation Day registration desk on the lanai of the Nehelani,  the first stop for the hundreds of retirees who participated, including many who arrived before sunrise.

Rema Reyes, Directorate of Human Resources assistant, sets up the Retiree Appreciation Day registration desk on the lanai of the Nehelani, the first stop for the hundreds of retirees who participated, including many who arrived before sunrise.

Like many of the displays, the garrison’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation representatives were running out of info pamphlets, and more, by the time the JROTC cadets from Leileihula High School posted the colors to formally begin the program.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in MWR, especially in leisure activities, discounts for travel.” explained Erin Wright, FMWR marketing specialist and the spouse of a deployed Soldier. Many of those visiting the MWR table were recent widowers who wanted to stay connected with their Army family.

“They’ve told us their spouses have passed on,” said Wright. “They’re here, getting out and about, and it makes us feel good to know that we have something to offer them.”

One benefit tends to be overlooked until it’s too late is the death of a retiree.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Alan Wilson, garrison Casualty Assistance Office, spoke to one retiree after another, about this oversight, as he distributed information.

“Sorry to say, but many stop buy the table after they hear me explaining to someone what to do, and then they get interested, and pick up the information,” said Wilson. “A lot of the retirees don’t know what to do when something happens. They’re very happy we’re here handing out information.”

A recurring theme throughout the morning, for both participating agencies and the retirees, was the Soldier for Life concept. Most of the retirees, when asked, said they were attending to see old comrades and to stay connected to the Army.

“The Army definitely has the best retiree program of all of the services,” said Matunas. “The big thing is letting them know that the old adage is true: Once a Soldier, always a Soldier.”

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