Volunteers strengthen KMC through retiree support

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Larissa Greatwood
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Retiring from a long military career can be a satisfying reward. Many people may look forward to retirement, but living in a foreign country may put a strain on a person's day-to-day life.

Living in central Europe offers many opportunities for travel and culture. Some things that may be difficult for those living overseas are the language barriers and transportation. For some, these can make even simple tasks daunting.

The 86th Airlift Wing Retiree Activities Office offers a program which encourages volunteers to help others in need. From assistance with grocery shopping to rides to doctor's appointments, veterans in the Kaiserslautern Military Community are stepping up and making running errands more convenient.

"We want to help all retired service members who may not be able to drive or are uncomfortable driving," said Luis De Andrade, RAO director. "I asked the group of volunteers if they wanted to set parameters for what assistance they offer, and they decided not to, and to handle each individual one-on-one, which I thought was phenomenal."

Steven Groenheim, retired Air Force colonel and volunteer, said the uniqueness of having retirees assisting others is important because they have empathy and experience with similar needs.

The RAO offers experience and information to retirees of all military branches and Department of Defense civilians. Though they offer an abundance of information, De Andrade said retirees helping retirees is a special service.

"The information we offer is great, but I think what's important about this program is it's hands-on," De Andrade said. "We are assisting other retirees in the community, and it gives them the opportunity to form bonds as well. I think it's important for them to put a face with a name, because especially being overseas, it can be scary. It's good to get to know someone you can trust for assistance in times of need."

The RAO supports not only retired members, but also surviving spouses and family their families.

"We've had many instances where the [late spouse] of a widow or widower has not informed their surviving spouse of their entitlements such as life insurances, medical benefits and many other things," said De Andrade. "We, or volunteers, are here to assist in those circumstances."

By helping those around us, we become better as a community. Groenheim said though this program is about retirees helping each other, it's crucial for everyone to do their part.

"[Leaders] talk a lot about building partnerships," he said. "It's not too late to build [bonds] with the older folks in the community, and I believe we need to start early and reach backward. It starts with something as simple as looking someone in the eye and saying hello, and I think that starts at a young age. Building partnerships starts with the people we meet every day, and this is just one of the ways we can do that regardless of age. This is about good people helping good people. We all need help because none of us are alone or should be."

Retirees requiring assistance can contact the RAO program coordinator, Jim Barrante, at jim.barrante@fcgh.net, or contact the RAO at DSN 480-5486, commercially at 06371-47-5468 or through e-mail at 86aw.rao@us.af.mil.