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JBLM to give back to military retirees

Northwest Guardian

Published: 05:32PM May 8th, 2014

In a week, about 2,000 military retirees and spouses will gravitate to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

They’ll be happy, hungry and heartened thanks to the welcome prepared for them by Retirement Services Officer Alex Silva on Retiree Appreciation Day on May 16.

“That’s the day we give back to the retirees,” Silva said.

Veterans will come from across the Northwest and beyond, Silva said. They’ll receive medical tests, sit down for a meal or two together and talk about their time in uniform, the sights they saw and the military experiences they shared.

About 60 agencies will take part in providing or pitching services to the people who come, Silva said. They range from banks, colleges and career programs to the commissary and veterans associations.

Madigan Army Medical Center personnel will handle the medical portion, Silva said. Attendees will start lining up outside about 5:30 a.m. for a blood draw to start any number of free medical screenings attendees want. Those tests include digital prostate screening, corraded artery checks, cardiovascular disease screenings, full diabetic assessments, optometry checks, hearing tests and dental check, which Silva said too few retirees get done.

There also will be lawyers from the Army Judge Advocate General and Madigan to help with end-of-life paperwork, such as wills and powers of attorney.

Finally, for female retirees and widows, mammogram “tickets” will be given out so they can go straight to Madigan for a mammogram instead of starting from square one.

“Retirees are smart,” Silva said. “They went there last year, or they talked to a buddy or something like that. They come in and say, ‘I wanna do this one, and this one, and this one,’ and they go for those.”

The benefit for veterans there is that Madigan personnel can offer referrals as soon as the tests are done, Silva said, allowing them to bypass the longer process of being referred to specialty clinics.

But the attendees aren’t all folks from World War II or the Cold War-era conflicts, Silva said. More and more young people from operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom are coming to get their health checked and talk with other retirees about life in general. It isn’t just Soldiers either. Airmen, Sailors and Marines all attend the event.

Widows are also encouraged to attend, and many do, Silva said.

“We want those widows because there’s a lot of services they don’t know about,” Silva said. “They can talk to people who know what they’re talking about.”

This year’s event is at the renovated American Lake Conference Center. Silva said a small part of the renovation actually is a big draw for retirees: a huge new central elevator able to at once take two people in wheel-chairs.

“It gives them that autonomy,” Silva said.

It’s a big step up from previous years, when RAD took place at McChord Field’s Hangar 9. Silva said the acoustics and heating of Hangar 9 didn’t work so well, though the space was nice.

As with previous years, Silva said there will be Army and Air Force JROTC cadets from area schools visiting with the retirees. It’s a feature the retirees enjoy, getting a chance to talk to young people who are both respectful and interested in what they have to say.

“Retirees just love (the cadets) going up and talking to them, asking them questions: ‘What do you do,’ ‘How did you get your rank,’” Silva said. “It’s something they really do love.”

To learn more

In case you haven’t received your postcard in the mail, Retiree Appreciation Day is from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 16 at American Lake Conference Center, Lewis North at JBLM. Commuters should expect increased traffic delays along Interstate 5 and Dupont-Steliacoom Boulevard that day. To pick up forms, enter the raffle, get the breakfast and lunch menus and get your blood draw slip, go to www.lewis-mcchord.army.mil/dhr/rso/rad.htm, or call 253-966-5884, 5881 or 5882.