Commander honors retirees at final event of Appreciation Weekend

  • Published
  • By Valerie Mullett
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office
"Thank you for your service," was a common phrase being utterd by staff at the Malmstrom Clinic April 24 and 25 as hundreds of area retirees came to the base to participate in activities offered there and at other customer service agencies around the installation. By the end of the weekend, the retirees were the ones giving reciprocal thanks to Malmstrom for hosting such a rewarding event.

The clinic offered many of the services they had planned for Saturday on Friday, as well, to try and meet the needs of everyone wanting to participate.

"We typically volunteer to work on Saturday at the hospitality table in the commissary," said Vivian Peterson, a member of the Montana Retiree's Council, one of the co-hosts for the event. "It was nice for us [she and her husband, Scott] to be able to take in some of the services offered today [Friday]."

The weekend officially kicked off with a formal retreat honoring the retirees April 24 that was moved inside the base theater due to exceptionally cold weather for this time of year. The retirees then gathered at the club for a no-host social hour to get reacquainted with their friends they hadn't seen since the event was held last year.

Saturday started bright and early for many, with the clinic opening at 7 a.m. Many retirees needing blood work had fasted the night before in preparation, so were ready to be "stuck" when the doors opened. Fresh fruit, cookies and coffee, along with smoothies and other healthy treats were strategically placed at various locations throughout the clinic to fill them up once their blood had been drawn and to nibble on throughout the morning. Besides being able to get a variety of health screenings and tests, informational brochures on numerous health-related topics were available around every turn.
"The clinic has really gone all out this year to provide the services the retirees need as well as add some new ones to the mix," said Denis Miller, deputy director of the Montana Retiree's Council.

Some of the additions included heel screenings for bone density and osteoporosis, and balance testing provided by professionals from Benefis Healthcare Systems. Sletten Cancer Institute set up a large area with informational brochures and healthcare providers on hand to answer retiree's questions.

"Every year we try to get creative and add something new that we feel will be beneficial to the retirees," said Capt. Tara Lovell, 341st Medical Group coordinator for the event. "These new services have been very well received."

The customer service area at the Military Personnel Section was open to renew ID cards and the commissary and base exchange each had hospitality tables set up to greet the retired visitors with refreshments.

Following a full morning of taking care of business, more than 80 retirees retreated to the chapel annex to participate in a briefing where they learned new information about the defense finance and accounting system, Social Security benefits, legal office assistance and the casualty affairs office services. The briefing received "rave reviews," according to 2nd Lt. Danielle Hummert, Chief of Customer Service for the MPS.

The final event of the weekend was the appreciation dinner at the Grizzly Bend Club. More than 120 attended; a handful bedecked in their military garb. Following presentation of the colors by the Malmstrom Honor Guard, singing of the National Anthem by the Malmstrom Men's Ensemble, and a POW/MIA ceremony presented by members of the Airman Leadership School, dinner was served. Several door prizes were given away and the Men's Ensemble performed during intermission before guest speaker, Col. Michael Fortney, 341st Missile Wing commander, addressed the attendees.

"We call this retiree's weekend, but that label does not do this crowd justice," he said.

He went on to make the analogy that may people retire and many people wear uniforms in their daily duties, such as those at the refinery in town, or printers such as his father - both of which are meaningful jobs.

"But you here tonight are different . . . not just retirees. This group is special," the commander said. "When you went to work, you answered a call every day. The uniform you wore was different than those worn by others. You chose a life of service to something much bigger than yourselves. . . And the uniform you wore was unlike those of our civilian friends. You were literally draped in the fabric of our great country, the uniform of our nation's defenders."

He continued to engage the crowd with military demographics and retiree statistics and offer gratitude to all branches of the service for the roles they played in the nation's military history, injecting some humor along the way. He recognized the spouses for their dedication and thanked all for the countless volunteer hours they continue to donate since hanging up their uniforms. He discussed the way ahead for the Air Force and for Malmstrom, and in closing, he got somber once more.

"We owe you. Our military members today literally stand on the foundation you poured. We stand on your shoulders . . . the shoulders of giants," Colonel Fortney said, before asking everyone to charge their glasses and join him in a toast.

One by one he acknowledged the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force and lastly, the spouses.

"Thank you for asking me to spend the evening with you tonight," he said. "It was my privilege to address you."