Whether they came for medical screenings and information, vendor freebies, door prizes or to socialize with other veterans, more than 1,200 people showed up for the annual Retiree Appreciation Day at American Lake Conference Center May 18.
The day is intended to say “thanks” to those who previously served in all branches of the military. In some years, more than 2,500 retirees attended the event. Last year, there were 600 attendees, according to Dennis Thomas, Joint Base Lewis-McChord retirement services officer.
“Being able to more than double the number of people who attended last year shows we’ve got forward momentum,” Thomas said. “We got almost all positive feedback, so I’d say it was a success.”
Retired Army Col. Bruce Block, of Puyallup, spent some time with Syneva Staley, an internal medicine nurse at Madigan Army Medical Center, who took Block’s blood pressure and checked his pulse and oxygen levels.
“I always come to this event, because it gives me free medical (screenings) and it’s faster than going to see a doctor,” Block said.
Esperanza Soto, a legal assistant at Madigan, said she has enjoyed helping retirees at the event for the past five years. Soto’s office signed up retirees for services at the hospital and provided help with medical power of attorney paperwork.
“We’re mainly providing (information) today, but we can sign people up for more advanced legal help, depending on what they need,” she said.
The event was an opportunity for Dr. Dennis Smith, Fircrest Family Chiropractic Center in Fircrest, Wash., to showcase some of the services his office now offers through TriWest Healthcare Alliance’s choice program, not to be confused with TRICARE, he said, adding his office also accepts Medicare patients.
Smith has been a vendor at the retiree Appreciation Day event for the past 10 years.
“It’s great to be a part of this to help the military and also let them know what’s available for future help; we’ve scheduled quite a few people to come in to the office,” Smith said.
Retired Army Staff Sgt. Jim Martin and his wife, Linda traveled from Vancouver, Wash., to attend the event. The couple has attended every year since Martin retired in 1992 from Camp Murray.
“We come every year, because it’s a kind of reconnection with the military,” Martin said, adding he met a fellow Vietnam veteran at the event.
“There’s a special connection, and it’s good to talk with and share with others who served,” he said.
“We also come for the door prizes,” Linda Martin said, who won a small grill at last year’s event. “Who knows, we may win something again.”