• Area retirees gather for appreciation day

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    More than 300 military retirees and their family members attended the 53rd annual Retiree Appreciation Day Oct. 28 at the Lewis and Clark Center.
    “We give thanks and gratitude to all our retirees this morning for their service, dedication, devotion and love for their duty and service to our great nation,” said Lt. Col. Raynard Churchwell, Garrison chaplain, during the invocation. “We are thankful for the retirees we honor and celebrate here today. As we show our appreciation this morning and every day of the year, we ask that you will continue to give them a long life to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and the promises of your blessings as they continue to be great people in the path that lays before them as they continue to always love and keep America free.”
    Following the invocation, attendees were addressed by Col. Marne Sutten, Garrison commander.
    “When you think about the impacts of this area and the gentlemen and women that are sitting in this room, you have been part of (Fort Leavenworth’s) legacy, and we are very proud to have this day to thank you and to take care of you,” Sutten said. “You’ve come before us, you’ve come before me and my sergeant major, and you’ve made a significant difference in our ability to serve today. We are very proud of you and we thank you.”
    After Sutten’s address, retired Lt. Gen. Richard Keller of The 27 Committee told the retirees about the 2016 economic impact of federal facilities in the Kansas City Region. Fort Leavenworth has an influence over two states — Kansas and Missouri — and 15 counties. Keller said Fort Leavenworth had more than a $2.3 billion economic impact to the greater Kansas City region in fiscal year 2016 stemming from Department of Defense payroll, general expenditures, travel expenditures, the Unified School District 207 budget and construction contracts. The total regional economic and personnel impact for fiscal year 2016 was more than $5.3 billion. For more information, visit www.the27committee.com. Veterans can also visit www.ksmocveb.us.
    At the end of his presentation, Keller said that all the attendees were a testiment to the military that he is still proud to serve, even after his own retirement.
    “(I) am still so proud to continue to do things on behalf of the military and support the military here,” he said. “Thanks to all of you for all of your service. Even as I listened to the questions and where you came from and what services you represent, that’s an amazing testiment to the value of America and its veterans. Less than 1 percent of America serves in the armed forces now so, it’s a smaller and smaller group that represents less and less of America.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Kathy Lucero, beneficiary education representative for United Healthcare – Military and Veterans, gave retirees an update on TRICARE and upcoming changes as of Jan. 1, 2018, including a combination of TRICARE North and TRICARE South into TRICARE East, and switch from TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra into TRICARE Select, as well as the addition of TRICARE Prime. For more details on the changes, visit www.tricare.mil/changes.
    After all of the speakers were finished, retirees had the opportunity to visit more than 30 vendors, including Wreaths Across America, Munson Army Health Center, TRICARE, Armed Forces Insurance and Smith Dental Clinic.
    Several retirees said they were pleased with the event and the information they were provided. Retired Maj. Randy Steffens said he was unaware of the changes coming to TRICARE.
    “The TRICARE (presentation) was a good update on that. I didn’t even know all those changes were down the street so there was a lot of good information,” Steffens said.
    Charlotte McClure, widow of retired Lt. Col. Marshall McClure, has been attending Retiree Appreciation Day since 1980 and said she simply enjoys coming to Fort Leavenworth. She said she has seen many positive changes with the event over the years.
    “I shop up here because I just like the cleanliness and the atmosphere of the young people. It’s a whole different atmosphere on post than it is off post. I just enjoy it. It’s a positive experience, and I enjoy an occasional connection with the military,” McClure said. “(The event is) better because the facility is so much better. The old (Command and General Staff College) was very crowded, then they went to a gym and that was dismal. This is a beautiful facility to have this special event.”
    Retired Navy Capt. Terry Conner said the event is a great way to get access to new information.
    “It’s really great for gathering information, particularly if you retire from the Reserve, and you have to wait to start receiving your benefits. It’s so valuable to have an active military post near you that can provide that information for you,” Conner said. “Everything changes with health insurance and particularly with TRICARE changing, that’s one of the things that we particularly wanted to hear more authoritatively were about those changes.”
    Conner’s husband, Sam Conner, said he learned a lot from Keller’s presentation and he continually comes the RAD with the expectation to learn something new.
    “It really shows the significance of what the military does or what the government does for this area,” Sam Conner said. “Each year, you come with expectations to learn something else you didn’t know before because your situation maybe has changed. So, each year there’s always that other little nugget of valuable information that you can gather and utilize and wait for the next year for that same opportunity. It’s an extremely valuable tool that’s being offered to retirees.”
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