FORT HOOD — This weekend was about honoring military retirees, a group of Americans who are truly special, said Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, during the opening ceremony of Fort Hood’s 38th annual Retiree Appreciation Day.
“They represent what’s great about our country and our military,” he said. “This group of citizens truly understands, better than most, what sacrifice means.”
Held at Club Hood just after the Old Timer’s Breakfast on Saturday morning, the ceremony welcomed retirees with presentations from the Noncommissioned Officers Academy and the Army surgeon general, as well as thanking those who made the two-day event possible.
“The Retiree Council worked very hard to ensure we recognize and honor those of you with us,” Campbell said.
More than 3,000 retirees were expected to visit Fort Hood from across the state to participate in events geared to inform, educate and benefit retired military service members.
“It’s always great,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jose T. Cruz, of Killeen, who was attending the event for the 30th time. “This is a good program, because it helps the retirees out of this area. Some come from Dallas. They come in and get an update of what they need to do. They don’t have to make an appointment, they can just go and get a service.”
Everything from identification cards to flu shots were available on post Saturday. A golf tournament was held Friday, as well as a dinner, so many retirees come to town and make a weekend out of it.
“I needed a vacation,” said Jess Ochoa, retired Army. He drove about 150 miles from Lancaster to attend the event once again.
“I like to come out here and enjoy the speeches and everything else,” he said.
Ochoa and other retirees commented on the NCO Academy’s presentation, “I Am a Sergeant,” which included soldiers dressed in the Army uniforms from the Revolutionary War to today’s Army Combat Uniform and blue service uniform.
The guest speaker for the morning was Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, Army Surgeon General.
“It’s an honor for me to express personal gratitude for all that have served,” she said. Veterans, no matter what war or branch of the military they served in, are connected by an understanding that spans every generation, she said.
“It’s the shared experience of defending our nation,” Horoho said. “Our retirees are an integral piece in understanding our Army families around the world.”
She then shared with the audience the changes and research under way at Army Medicine to improve the force, such as embedded mental health professionals at the brigade combat team level, opening medical homes off-post within military communities and incorporating patient-centered care. These programs are already in practice at Fort Hood, but new research discussed could change the approach to soldier health using the areas of sleep, activity level and nutrition.
“By improving active-duty health now, (we hope) it is maintained in the future,” Horoho said.
After the ceremony, retirees spent the rest of the day at the County Fair, which included nearly 40 organizations, and the Health Fair hosted by Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. There were also plenty of opportunities for veterans to mingle.
“I’m always happy I can still come out,” said Cruz, while passing out information at the Retired Enlisted Association’s table at the County Fair. “To meet people and be active is very important.”
Fort Hood’s Retiree Appreciation Day is held every year during the last weekend of October.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.