Retiree Appreciation Day brings veterans fun, friends, info
42nd Medical Group personnel Master Sgt. Antwan Lynum, left, and Staff Sgt. Shannon Riley sign Charles and Geraldine Elliot up for free flu shots during Maxwell's annual Retiree Appreciation Day at the Honor Guard Hangar Friday. (Air Force photo/Melanie Rodgers Cox)
Retiree Appreciation Day brings veterans fun, friends, info

by Kimberly L. Wright
Air University Public Affairs

11/24/2010 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Though he retired 38 years ago, Willie Dickerson, 72, is still very much a part of the military community.

He retired as an Air Force technical sergeant after serving in "part of Korea and all of Vietnam." He's lived in Montgomery since 1955, his children were born on base, in the hospital that has since been torn down, and he regularly visits the base.

"I love the military. I really love the military," he said.

The annual Retiree Appreciation Day, hosted by the 42nd Air Base Wing, is a way that the base regularly shows love to veterans such as Mr. Dickerson. The event featured food, information and freebies in the Honor Guard Hangar Friday.

During the opening ceremony, the Maxwell Elementary School choir paid tribute to veterans with two songs: "We Will Not Forget" and "You Are Our Heroes," which elicited smiles and applause from the veterans.

42nd Air Base Wing Commander Col. Brian Killough thanked veterans for their service, which "allows our children to do what they did here."

He noted that the 42nd Air Base Wing serves about 15,000 veterans in the local area, and "we take that responsibility seriously." He encouraged veterans to let them know if there are issues the base needs to address to make services to veterans better.

Veterans and their spouses availed themselves of goodie bags provided by Army and Air Force Exchange Services and freebies that included lunch, coffee, plants from the base greenhouse and games of bingo.

David Parks, who retired as a master sergeant in 1986 after 21 years of service, looks forward to this event, where he gets to chat with fellow retirees.

"I enjoy coming out here to this event every year," he said. "A lot of useful information is passed out."

Information booths lined both sides of the hangar, featuring base, local and national organizations that cover a variety of veterans' issues. Organizations represented included the Health and Wellness Center, Air Force Village, the Montgomery Area Council on Aging and the Veterans Administration.

Melvin Peterson, an outreach advocate with the Southeast Network of the Veterans Administration, shared with veterans how he and his office are working to help their displaced comrades in a three-state area.

"The homeless population is very large, and we're trying to reduce it drastically," he said.

Having retired as a senior noncommissioned officer with the Army 13 years ago, he and his colleagues work to get veterans in the programs they need to get them off the street, including mental health, substance abuse and work programs. For more information on the VA outreach program, call Mr. Peterson at 391-3471.