09/24/06 — Air base shows its gratitude for what retirees give back

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Air base shows its gratitude for what retirees give back

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on September 24, 2006 2:00 AM

Even after devoting years of their lives to the service of their country, many former airmen and their families continue to support Seymour Johnson Air Force Base with their time, while asking for nothing in return.

Base officials honored those volunteers Saturday for Retiree Appreciation Day.

"You have contributed over 8,000 hours of work to your community this year, which is about a half of a million dollars in service for this community," Col. Steve Kwast, the base's new wing commander, said. "Even though you may not think it, the youngsters watch you. Even though they listen to strange music and do those text message things, they look up to you and follow your example."

Saturday's attendees are members of the Retirees Activities Office, which began in 1972 as an interface between retired and active duty airmen. The office allows military retiree volunteers, their spouses or surviving spouses from all branches of the military to assist Seymour Johnson in the pharmacies, dental clinic, skills development center, public affairs office and other offices on base.

Each year, the base honors one of its volunteers as the Volunteer of the Year. Betty Cassidy has only been volunteering for the Retirees Activities Office for the past year, but has made a large difference in such a short time.

"You have exceeded as a volunteer. Your attitude, determination, and passion have made you a standout," Kwast said.

But if you ask Mrs. Cassidy, there are many others who should have won the recognition before her.

"I feel like a small part of the puzzle. There are others who have been here for years and who I feel have accomplished more. It's not just one person. All of the retirees and active airmen all work together," Mrs. Cassidy said.

During the past year, Mrs. Cassidy has worked as a publicity coordinator, keeping in contact with retirees and volunteers by informing them of base programs that could help them with finances, health and insurance.

But she has also gone beyond the call of duty several times in the past year by delivering medication to a retired serviceman in Goldsboro who couldn't travel to the base.

"I think (volunteering) keeps them young. They are still serving the base and the community and they look forward to coming to work. We work as a big family and we look after each other," Mrs. Cassidy said.

That is the same attitude that the retirees office tries to instill into each volunteer, said retired Senior Master Sgt. Elmer Bryans, director of Seymour Johnson's retirees office.

"I like to think of it as a team. We go out and get the greatest potential and work as a family," he said.

The base also awards the best volunteer for each quarter. For the third quarter of this year, Col. Russell Walden, 4th Fighter Wing mission support group commander, presented retired Senior Master Sgt. Billy Buchanan with the award. During the past nine years, Buchanan has worked at the base's pharmacies providing medication to retirees and enlisted airmen.

By next year's awards banquet, Bryans said he would like to see more volunteers supporting Seymour Johnson and Goldsboro. Kwast told retirees that the base will support that growth in any was possible.

"We want to help engage the organization into more than it is now. We want to help get anyone involved on base and in the community that can volunteer," Kwast said.

For more information on the Retirees Activities Office, call 722-1119. The retirees' office is located on 1200 Wright Brothers Ave. and is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Office hours are from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays.