T. Anthony Bell, Fort Lee Public Affairs

FORT LEE, Va. – A special “social twist” has been added to Fort Lee’s annual Retiree Appreciation Day activities.

In addition to the usual event staples – medical checks, information booths, ID card updates and guest speakers – the Sept. 26 affair for the first time will feature a Military Retiree Appreciation Ball that starts at 5 p.m. at the Regimental Club.

This inaugural social gathering is the work of the Fort Lee Retiree Council and Retirement Services Office. It is intended to recognize the service and sacrifice of all who completed a successful career in the armed forces, said Cassandra Rawls, chief of the RSO.

“The ball is the answer to a vision suggested by some of our key leaders about a year ago,” she said. “They proposed an event that will help foster goodwill between active and retired military personnel. It will be one of the many ways to show our retirees they are still important in this community.”

Those interested in attending can register via the “Retiree Ball Ticket” link in the “Upcoming Events” listing on Fort Lee’s official website, www.lee.army.mil. The cost is $25 per person. The event will include a buffet dinner and a guest speaker who will provide welcoming remarks. Tickets must be purchased before event; they will not be sold at the door.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Michael Walker, Retiree Council co-chairperson, said he and other members of the group tossed around the idea of organizing the ball roughly a year ago. He said they were looking for ways to bolster involvement among area retirees in a service area that stretches beyond the City of Richmond.

“It was an idea everybody talked about – something to let our retirees know that Fort Lee cares about them,” he said. “Being a retiree myself, I think we need to do more to let folks know we appreciate their service because a lot of them feel forgotten, and they’re not forgotten. To convey that message, it’s imperative to do something significant to convey they are a vital part of our community.”

It also was the goal of the council to strengthen the connection between retirees and those serving on active duty, said Walker.

“We want to energize the retiree community through relationship building with our active duty Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors,” said Walker. “We want them to be able to speak to those young people through their wisdom and experience and help them understand what their service means.”

That too is the vision of the Army’s Soldier for Life project. It acknowledges the importance of career military veterans and the role they can play in promoting the positive values of military service. In George Washington’s words quoted on the SFL website, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”

For Rawls, the event is an extension of the retiree appreciation mission on a grand scale. It furthers retiree opportunities “to reconnect with their peers and active duty members whom they may have served with or mentored in some way or may not have seen in a while,” she said. “At the same time, it gives them an opportunity to revisit the social functions they may have missed about the military over the years.”

The RSO and Retiree Council’s aim is to host the ball annually, said Walker. For more details, call (804) 765-9063.