Base holds annual Retiree Appreciation Day, health fair

1 Oct 2011 | Pfc. Nik Phongsisattanak

Retired service members, active-duty supporters and families gathered for the annual Retiree Appreciation Day event at Marston Pavilion aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Saturday.

If one were to walk behind the retirees at this event, it would be difficult to guess their age. Many of them displayed a strong posture, projecting a sense of pride and confidence that has resonated and grown from the moment they decided to serve their country.

The event was a way to give back to the retirees for all that they have done.

“We have a large retiree community,” said Col. Daniel Lecce, commanding officer of MCB Camp Lejeune. “The base is very much connected to its retiree community and we need to support them.”

The retirees were updated by Lecce on construction, development of facilities and programs aboard the base.

“The event was very informative,” said Ralph Garcia, retired major and Rolling Thunder’s Chapter NC-5 chairman in Jacksonville. “It keeps the retired community (well informed) of what's going on aboard the base and our community. Colonel Lecce is a gifted speaker, he gets his point across and he makes sure that you understand everything he talks about.”

Navy Capt. Anne Swap, executive officer of Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, MCB Camp Lejeune, provided additional updates on construction projects at the hospital. She also spoke to the retirees about their concerns in an open discussion. She answered questions and took note of suggestions or ideas that could be used to address the issues.

The open exchange of ideas and information between the NHCL health care providers and beneficiaries demonstrated how the hospital values their relationship, but NHCL took it a step further to show their appreciation by providing the Health and Information Fair.

“This is a great opportunity to provide health screening for our retired service members,” James Askins, department head of Health Promotions and Wellness with NHCL. “It's a way for us to help bring awareness and provide information and services to help them manage their health.”

Retirees and patrons spoke with medical physicians and received handouts to increase awareness and promote healthy living. Those in attendance had a chance to get influenza shots and blood pressure checks. There were also mobile vans stationed outside that provided hearing tests, skin cancer screenings and dental exams for cancer.

"I think it's great," said Lecce. "You can get a flu shot, check your feet and (check for) diabetes. It's sort of a one stop-shop for all of their medical screenings and check-ups.”

Garcia said a lot of retirees still work, so finding the time to stay up-to-date with medical appointments and examinations can be difficult. This event is an opportunity for follow-up on anything missed, added Garcia.

According to Askins, each year these screenings result in the discovery of a cancer or the early stages of diseases.

“Whenever you can find a disease process early the chances of a cure or managing the disease is so much greater,” said Askins. “It makes a difference between the longevity and the quality of life.”

Many of the retirees seemed younger than they looked. Their youthful attitudes fashioned a comforting atmosphere. Events such as this promote the physical aspects to living healthy, but do more by creating a positive frame of mind. 

“How are you this morning?” asked a young Marine who attended the event.
“I can't complain - it wouldn't do me any good,” replied a retiree with high spirits and a smile.

Those from the older generations are often well-equipped with stories and sound bites, which can provide wise and humorous lessons. This event united patrons of all ages, similar to the cake-cutting ceremony during the Marine Corps Birthday, signifying the importance of one’s history and the role it plays in creating a better future.

“I think that the appreciation is necessary,” said Swap. “They came before us. They laid the legacy that got us where we are today, and this is why we have our benefits. They taught us how to be, and they continue to be advocates for active-duty service members and their families. We appreciate everything that they do and this is why we're here today.”