JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
Joint Base San Antonio gave a segment of the community some special treatment during its annual Retiree Appreciation Day, hosted by Brooke Army Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Oct. 19.
Hundreds of retired service members and their families participated in the event that included information booths and services such as skin checks, walk-in mammograms, walk-in ID card services, and TRICARE information. Retirees were able to order prescription glasses and flu shots were administered to beneficiaries 65 years and older.
Brig. Gen. Laura L. Lenderman, 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio commander, opened the event with a brief history of when Americans learned the value and appreciation of service members and their families.
“More than 48 million Americans have served in our military since 1776,” Lenderman said. “In 1818, Congress passed legislation identifying requirements to qualify as a military retiree. In 1865, Abraham Lincoln made a promise in his second inaugural address when he said that America would ‘care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.’ Your loyalty to serve our nation is awe inspiring, and we owe you that same promise.”
“It takes months to prepare and set aside a day to put on an event like Retiree Appreciation Day,” said Joe Silvas Jr., Joint Base San Antonio retirement service officer, who headed the planning and execution efforts for Retiree Appreciation Day. “We’ve actually been in the planning stages since June to make sure every effort and every agency, internal and external are invited and get an opportunity to give back to our retired community and our family members.
“It’s a joint effort between the 502nd and the Brooke Army Medical Center staff,” Silvas added. “We did whatever we needed to do to make it a spectacular day.”
To Angel Benavides, an Army veteran of 22 years, Retiree Appreciation Day has a simple and profound meaning.
“Just what it says, they (community) appreciate us,” Benavides said. “I hear a lot of people now, when I wear my hat (9th Infantry Division veteran) tell me, thank you for your service.”
When Benavides returned from Vietnam back in 1969, he remembered the reception was cold and degrading.
“It’s better, and it’s changed quite a bit for those who serve,” he said. “I feel appreciated.”
Brig. Gen. Wendy Harter, BAMC commanding general, also addressed the crowd before the start of Retiree Appreciation Day.
“I want you to know that we hold you in great esteem on more than just one day of the year,” Harter said. “We honor our retirees and veterans every day.”
Benavides reflected on the reason why he and 48 million others served the country.
“It’s not because I was becoming a millionaire at $68 a month basic pay back in 1963,” he said.
Benavides sees the military sort of like a family business. His brother served in Vietnam, and his step-father fought in Korea and Vietnam as well.
“I’d like to thank the family members of our retirees as well,” Harter said. “Your selflessness gave our retirees the strength and stability to be able to do their jobs, knowing they had the love and support of their families.”
“There’s a lot of military in my blood,” Benavides said. “If you teach the young people to respect what we stand for, what the military stands for, I think we’ll be a lot better off.”