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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Officials are staging a Retiree Appreciation Day on Thursday at the Yokota Enlisted Club.

The session is designed to raise awareness about various benefits and quality-of-life issues affecting overseas retirees. It begins at 7:30 a.m. with a free breakfast buffet in the Yokota Enlisted Club’s ballroom, and all U.S. military retirees living on Tokyo’s Kanto Plain are invited.

“It’s not just a Yokota or Air Force thing only. It’s open to anyone,” said Rod Bradish, director of Yokota’s Retiree Activities Office, which organized the event. “You can feed your face and feed your mind.

“The main thing is to let retirees know that just because they’re not active duty any more, they’re still a part of the community that needs to be recognized. Secondly, we want to get information out there that retirees and dependents want and/or need, because federal laws, regulations and circumstances are always changing. They have to change with it and keep informed. It’s important.”

Civilian and military personnel matters, services, legal affairs, security forces, finances, pass and identification, and medical care are among the issues that will be covered by representatives from Yokota agencies. Col. Scott Goodwin, the 374th Airlift Wing commander, also is scheduled to speak.

Booths are being set up to put retirees in touch with other organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Yokota commissary — the latter slated to hand out gift certificates, Bradish said. Yokota’s Health and Wellness Center will conduct free blood-pressure checks.

The gathering is expected to last until about 11:30 a.m.

Retiree informational fairs are routinely held at military installations in the United States, particularly in areas that feature large pockets of former servicemembers. About 80 people attended one at Yokota in January, the first held there in more than two decades, according to Bradish, who hopes to make it an annual event each fall.

“We got a lot of good reviews,” he said, “but I want to get more people out this time. I have no idea how many will turn out, but I’m hoping for 200 to 300.

“This will be different from January. That was aimed more at being an information fair. This is more of an appreciation day.”

A critical topic of discussion will be casualty assistance and planning, led by personnel and services officials. Bradish said retirees do an admirable job taking care of spouses and dependents while alive but often overlook matters that must be dealt with in the event of their death, including wills and burial wishes.

“It’s very important. They need to start planning because none of us is going to be around forever,” he said. “It’s not that they don’t care. For whatever reasons, it just doesn’t cross their minds. It’s a sensitive issue and not something anyone wants to think about. But it needs to be addressed.”

Citing figures compiled in October 2004, Bradish said there are about 2,000 military retirees, spouses and survivors in the Kanto Plain and up to 4,500 across Japan, including those on Okinawa.

For more information about Retiree Appreciation Day, contact Bradish at DSN 225-8324 or 042-552-2510, ext. 58324. He can be reached via e-mail at rao@yokota.af.mil.

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