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Retiree Appreciation Day a chance to give back

January 19, 2014
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Retired 1st Sgt. Lawrence Robertson didn't particularly need breakfast, a flu shot, a dental screening or any of the other free services offered Jan. 11 during Retiree Appreciation Day.

But the former Army food-service inspector donned his green John Deere ball cap, jumped in his truck and set out for Fort Carson anyway.

"It's nice to see what's going on, to walk around and meet people," said Robertson, who lives in Yoder, where he keeps goats, llamas and chickens.

Robertson and hundreds of other retirees and spouses reported to the post's Special Events Center that morning for the annual joint-forces event, postponed last fall due to cutbacks in the budget known as sequestration.

Parking was at a premium, and the center appeared packed. But it wasn't as busy as usual, and Dixie Roberts knew it.

Roberts, a retired soldier who works at the post's Retirement Services office, helps organize the expo each year.

Traditionally, free flu shots are the No. 1 draw. Because the event was postponed, many would-be attendees likely received the shot elsewhere and opted not to venture out into the cold, she said.

The delay didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the event's community service partners, she said.

Booths manned by military doctors and lawyers, local veterans service organizations and businesses such as banks and retirement homes snaked around the center's perimeter and formed additional rows in its center.

"They were excited and were going to be here" despite the schedule shake-up, she said.

Aireonna Gonzales could have slept in that Saturday morning.

Instead, the Fountain-Fort Carson High School Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadet showed up at the Special Events Center, where she spent the morning collecting retirees' names and email addresses for an informational mailing list.

Other cadets helped elderly and disabled retirees off shuttle buses and escorted them from booth to booth.

"I felt like helping," Gonzales said. "I love to volunteer."

Sgt. 1st Class Liela Cowhig wasn't ordered to work at Retiree Appreciation Day.

Like Gonzales, she chose to volunteer.

The dental services noncommissioned officer spent her Saturday morning performing oral cancer screenings and handing out denture brushes.

"It's nice to give back to our past soldiers who paved the way for us," she said. "They still matter, even if they don't wear the uniform anymore."

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