LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --
“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely
bears his country's cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his
brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause,” a quote from
President Abraham Lincoln.
Today, many veterans have made it their responsibility –
long after they have traded in their uniforms for civilian attire – to continue
caring for their fellow service members.
According to the 2015 Statistical Report on the Military
Retirement System, over 2 million military retirees live in the U.S. That is 2
million friends, neighbors or family members who have sacrificed their time,
body and mind to the freedom Americans enjoy today. But some continue to serve
even after their call of duty.
Retirees who serve at the 19th Airlift Wing Retiree
Activities Office continue their service to their nation by ensuring veterans
have the resources and support system needed to transition from military
service, seek help in navigating the process in attaining military benefits or simply
providing a support system for those who still need the camaraderie offered
while serving alongside their brothers and sisters in arms.
For retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Donald Smith, a
director for the base RAO, the transition from active-duty service into the
civilian sector allowed him the opportunity to reflect on what left the
greatest impression on him while serving.
“What do I miss most? The people,” said Smith, who serve in
the U.S. Air Force from 1968 to 1998. “I miss it because I’m not able to have
an input and impact on people’s lives in that manner.”
For retired U.S. Army Col. Henry Ward, it was about
continuing to serve the people who honored their nation by serving in the
“The main reason this country is what it is today is because
of (the veterans) who fought for our freedoms and believed in this country,”
said Ward, who served 37 years in the Arkansas Army National Guard from 1955 to
Together, along with other volunteer retirees, the RAO staff
continues their service by helping Arkansas’s 25,817 strong retiree community.
Some of the things the RAO provides is assistance with the
Veteran Affairs system and other processes veterans may need to enact.
“We try to put out information to all branches of the
service that need help as far as pay, lost records, referrals to the VA,
coordinating (help) with benefits that they deserve and do not have at the
moment – things of that nature,” Ward explained.
Taking care of people is a characteristic instilled throughout
service member’s careers. For Ward and Smith, it was this principle they apply
to serving the tight-knit retiree community they are a part of. Helping others
is not a choice, but rather what they always have done and continue to do.
“During my enlistment, I saw a lot of retirees that didn’t
have a place to go or have anyone to talk to when they had a problem,” Smith
said. “This program gives a retiree a place to come to and have a face-to-face
discussion with an individual about any problem they might have.”
Because the RAO takes great pride in providing a sense of
community to Veterans, they look for opportunities to connect retirees. One way
they do that is with their main annual event: Retiree Appreciation Day.
“It’s the most special event we do on Retiree Appreciation
Day,” Ward said. “I would love to see all active-duty personnel on base come by
and see what goes on!”
Retiree Appreciation Day is Oct. 22, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
and is scheduled to be held at the Walters Community Support Center on Little
Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The event will boast an array of informational booths
open to all Team Little Rock in support of Arkansas’s retiree community.