Local retirees and their family members gathered at Marston Pavilion on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to participate in Camp Lejeune’s Military Retiree Appreciation Day, Sept. 28.

"This event is important to anyone who is retired," said Luis J. Alers, the retired affairs officer with Marine Corps Installations East and a retired U.S. Marine gunnery sergeant. “There is a disconnect between retirees and veteran services, so we aim to bridge that gap.”

Guest speakers covered topics pertaining to specific needs of retirees and their families. Retirees were briefed on Defense Finance and Accounting Services, Veteran Affairs healthcare, benefits and dental services. Additionally there were representatives from the local North Carolina Vet Center, who discussed counselling options for service members and their families.

“We invite several applicable vendors to come out here and provide medical screenings and information to the retirees,” Alers said. “You don’t know that you need something, until you need it so we try to give (retirees) as much information as possible, that way they know what they are entitled to up front.”

James Childress, a retired U.S. Marine master gunnery sergeant, was awarded the Whitey Wellborne Award, for his service to the community and his fellow veterans. Childress, received this honor for transporting veterans to medical appointments and accruing over 100,000 miles.

"We united friends," Alers said. “With social media becoming a larger influence on our daily lives it seems like we make less and less time for our friends. Even in the same town, we do not put forth the effort we once did and it causes a rift in real conversations. That is especially true our older generation, who need that face to face time.”

After guest speakers met face to face with retirees, a fish lunch was provided. Retirees were reminded throughout the event that although they have left the brotherhood and sisterhood of active duty service, they are still a part of the military family.

"Retirees are from all over the country so their families are somewhere else," Alers said. "If something goes wrong, you have to count on the retiree or veteran next door to you. We are their family."