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It's an honor to host Retiree Appreciation Day

  • Published
  • By Col. Kyle Kremer
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing commander
I take great pride in hosting our retired heroes as Scott AFB celebrates its 28th Annual Retiree Appreciation Day. Honoring the men and women who have worn this nation's uniform, having the chance to meet with them, and offering a small token of appreciation for their service is a privilege. We are indebted so much to them, though it is a debt we can never truly repay. We owe them our very way of life, and our freedom to live, work and raise our own families as we please. Pausing for one day to celebrate their accomplishments is the very least we can do to thank them for all they've done for this great country.

More than 48 million Americans have served our great country since 1776. In 1818, Congress passed legislation identifying requirements to qualify as a military retiree. Abraham Lincoln made a promise to retirees in his Second Inaugural Address in 1865, when he said that America would " for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan." Currently, that promise applies the 2 million military retirees, and 330,000 widows and widowers that we are so fortunate to have with us today.

The legacy of our retired military is a proud and honorable one. Regardless of their time and location of service, our nation's armed forces acted nobly, liberating countries from the hands of dictators, engaging in harrowing humanitarian acts and bolstering peace across the globe. Retirees can survey the results of their shared sacrifice: hundreds of emerging and established democracies where the citizens now live in freedom, millions of saved lives from various natural disasters and the liberation of entire nations from tyranny.

Too often, our military retirees are this nation's unsung heroes. In peacetime, especially, it was easy to forget that these men and women were on duty, in isolated outposts around the globe. Some missed the birthdays, wedding anniversaries and graduations. Others spent holidays in waterlogged rice paddies in Vietnam, amidst the stinging sandstorms of the Iraqi desert, and in the cold and rugged mountains of Eastern Europe. Sadly, many of our military comrades never lived to wear the title "retiree."

They died on foreign soil, defending the cause of freedom around the world. President Ronald Reagan once said, "Most of those who died in defense of our country were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives - the one they were living, and the one they would have lived... They gave up everything for their country, for us. All we can do is remember."

The expectation of our military men and women serving today is greater than ever before, and we rely on the mentorship of those retirees who served before us to light the trail into the future. We have smart bombs, satellite communications systems, stealth fighters and bombers that can enter enemy airspace cloaked in virtual invisibility.

The profession of arms has become far more sophisticated, even in the decades since the first Gulf War was fought. But one military asset has remained unaltered: the character and resourcefulness of our men and women in uniform. As General Patton once said, "Wars may be fought by weapons, but they are won by men." The stories of the military men and women of yesteryear are the window into our history; America rose to greatness on the shoulders of retired veterans, and through their mentorship, we remain great.

To all of our retired veterans, I proclaim on behalf of Team Scott, thank you. Thank you for your sacrifices, for your sense of duty, and for your service. Our nation salutes you, and we have set aside a special day to show our gratitude.