Retired Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Mee Jr.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Mee Jr. ()

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Although he hung up his Air Force uniform in 1993 after 30 years of service, Vincent Mee Jr.’s business card reads: “still serving.”

Now the Air Force Retiree Council’s Pacific region representative, the retired chief master sergeant from Anchorage, Alaska, has been touring Far East countries looking into the welfare of the service’s retirees. He assumed the volunteer post last July.

With almost 5,000 Air Force retirees and their family members living in mainland Japan, South Korea, Guam, Thailand and the Philippines, Mee says two issues have come to the forefront.

“Getting APO privileges for retirees is one of the things we float up the flagpole from time to time,” he said here Monday.

Current Defense Department regulations restrict retiree use of the air-postal office, or APO system, at overseas locations. Certain mail and medications from Defense Department addresses are acceptable at some locations.

“We’ll sit down and determine if it can be fixed,” Mee said.

Another issue warranting exploration: the inability of retirees living abroad to cash U.S. savings bonds at overseas banks.

Restricted by DOD regulations from using U.S. banking facilities on overseas military bases, retirees have few options for turning matured bonds into cash. Foreign banks won’t touch them.

“Only U.S. banks can cash bonds, and while retirees can join overseas credit unions, they’re not allowed to cash bonds either,” he said.

It’s an irony facing retirees who purchased bonds during their military careers, Mee said.

“For years, we had bond drives encouraging people to step up and buy them. Now, they find out the reason they can’t cash them is they live overseas,” he said.

From Misawa, Mee heads for bases in Guam and South Korea this week before concluding his Pacific swing in Hawaii. There, he’ll brief Gen. William Begert, Pacific Air Forces commander.

Topics affecting Pacific region retirees will be discussed at the Air Force Retiree Council’s annual worldwide meeting in May in San Antonio.

A former heavy equipment operator for civil engineering squadrons “who plowed snow and fixed problems” while on active duty, Mee lauded the efforts of those running retiree-activities program offices in the Pacific. Like himself, all serve without pay.

“They’re dedicated folks working hard to help their fellow retirees and widows,” he said. “It’s definitely a success story at the bases who have them.”

Retiree offices on Pacific bases are supported administratively by local commanders who allocate office space and telephone lines.

But in the Philippines, a diminutive RAO office in Angeles City that Mee describes as “a hole in the wall” supports between 2,000 and 3,000 retirees with the help of satellite offices.

“There are 50 retirees, and 267 surviving spouses, being served by the RAO in Thailand, too,” he said. “The director is 81 years old, has been doing the job for 24 years, and has a 76-year-old assistant.”

Mee said he chides RAO director John Dyste about his longevity at the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group in Bangkok.

“I kid him that in six more years, he’ll retire at 30 years and get 75 percent of nothing,” he said.

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