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Retiree office keeps veterans, families connected

Aviano Air Base, Italy -- One of the most overlooked members of the Aviano community is the small group of retired military members living here.

About 160 retirees and widows live between Aviano and Trieste and although they don't directly play a role in the current mission, their contributions to the services in the past don't go unnoticed.

Aviano's Retiree Activities Officehelps ensure retirees and their families stay current on news and laws affecting them.

"It is the focal point for all retiree programs on base," said Retired Senior Master Sgt. Ed LaRose, RAO volunteer. "Any information about changes in medical benefits, Veteran's Affairs benefits or pay raises gets out to the retirees."

Serving as a volunteer in the Air Force Instruction-mandated position, Retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Third Class John Kirby personally calls or e-mails all retirees and their families to make sure they are updated.

"Here locally, the grapevine works very well and everyone will tell everyone else," said Mr. LaRose. "What Mr. Kirby's really good at is reaching out to those who aren't in the local community."

Mr. Kirby stays up to date by subscribing to all VFW-represented services magazines and keeping in contact with the retiree center at Air Force Personnel Center in San Antonio.

One of the most visible programs the RAO organizes is the dental clinic sponsored annual Retiree Dental Day, held in September. The last one drew 55 retirees, and their families to the base for exams, cleanings and operations.

"This event is one of the highlights of the year for retirees," said Mr. Kirby. "Ordinarily we have to wait until there's space available at the clinic for appointments. The enthusiasm with which the entire dental staff performed was greatly appreciated."

Other key events in the retiree community are their annual Retiree Appreciation Day, held in September, and the retiree picnic, held in midsummer.

For more information on retiree activities, call the RAO at Ext. 5665 or visit the Airman and Family Readiness Center in Area One. The RAO office hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings.