Retiree Appreciation Day a success

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The fabled June gloom of overcast skies gave way to brilliant sunshine as more than 500 retirees from all branches of military service turned out for the 2017 Retiree Expo in the Gordon Conference Center. The event, held June 3 on the grounds of the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Schriever Space Complex, was part of Los Angeles Air Force Base’s annual Armed Forces Retiree Appreciation Day.


Welcomed by Col. Charles Roberts, commander of the 61st Air Base Group, the retirees were honored with the playing of their individual military service songs at the start of the Expo.


“There’s been a lot of work that’s been put on…probably about the last nine months we’ve been planning this event, so it really is a big deal,” said Roberts. “We’ve got a lot of folks here, a lot of helping agencies that are here to talk to you, answering questions that you may have, so please take the time to look around, and also take the time to meet each other. You can probably make some friendships while you are going around.”


Hosted by the Retiree Activities Office, the six-hour event was packed with a wide range of activities for the retirees and their dependents, from guest speakers and vendor booths, to an outdoor BBQ with entertainment by Los Angeles radio station Power 106 FM, which kept young and old alike engaged throughout the afternoon.


“I feel relieved and tired, but I’m happy, overall,” exclaimed Capt. Dorothy Ridenour, 61st Medical Squadron Diagnostic Element chief, who served as project officer for this year’s event.


“We received a lot of positive feedback from all of the retirees that attended today. They were very appreciative of the services that we had come on base and they were also very thankful for the BBQ, the ID card renewals and the speeches that we had lined up,” said Ridenour. “They found it informative and they found the giveaways great. They had a great time.”


In all, 34 vendors from the 61st Medical Squadron’s Dental, Pharmacy/Lab, Family Health, Public Health, and TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration departments, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Defense Commissary Agency, Bob Hope USO at LAX, plus local and national veterans groups and service organizations were on hand to answer retirees’ questions and provide handout material in patriotic red, white and blue tote bags sporting the U.S. flag.


“This has been a good opportunity for the Exchange to give back to the retirees for the sacrifices they made for us,” stated Ronald Corona, general manager for the Los Angeles AFB Exchange. “It’s been a great response. We’ve had probably 150, maybe 200 folks come through our booth. We’ve shared a lot of information with them, gave away a lot of samples. They’ve talked very highly about the Exchange and what we’re doing here.”  


Briefings by subject matter experts on TRICARE, VA Healthcare, Social Security Administration, Cyber security, Resiliency, Defense Finance and Accounting Services, and Casualty assistance attracted rotating audiences during the morning sessions, as did tours of the SMC Heritage Center. Retirees were also able to update their ID cards and personal records via the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, or DEERS. Numerous door prizes featuring gift baskets and gift cards were drawn throughout the event.


Meanwhile, over in the Commissary parking lot, “Grill Sergeants” from Los Angeles AFB’s Top 3 and Rising 6 groups set up and served more than 750 retirees during a noontime “Burger Burn.” The complimentary outdoor BBQ also included grilled hot dogs and brauts with all the trimmings and ice cold drinks provided by the Defense Commissary Agency. A final drawing for door prizes provided by both the Exchange and Commissary and a watermelon eating contest for gift cards rounded out the annual event.


“Saturday's event went off without a hitch -- and it's all because of our amazing volunteers whose dedication and expertise made for an outstanding job well done,” said Ridenour.

Despite overcoming some logistical challenges in pulling off a successful event of this magnitude, Ridenour anticipates a larger event with even more variety for next year as word-of-mouth spreads among the 150,000 retiree community in the greater Los Angeles area.