The 21st Theater Sustainment Command retreat and retirement ceremony at the parade field on Panzer Kaserne July 10 was a special one for at least four people present.
Traditionally, a retreat ceremony signals the end of the official duty day, but for four retirees and their families it also signaled the end of a way of life.
“Our ceremony today is a fitting way to bid a fond farewell to four warriors and their families,” said Maj. Gen. Yves Fontaine, 21st TSC commanding general. “With over 87 years of combined service, Maj. Ken Woods, Master Sgt. Keith Skinner, Master Sgt. Juan Rivera and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Perez are retiring with the appreciation and respect of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.”
The four retirees agreed that trading their Army uniforms for civilian clothes will definitely mean the start of a new chapter in their lives.
Nonetheless, after 22 year of service, Sergeant Rivera, non-commissioned officer in charge of the 21st Special Troops Battalion operations section, considers retirement a good place to be in his life.
“It’s a little like after graduation. You have a great sense of accomplishment and at the same time you are excited about what is ahead of you,” he said. “I appreciate all the Army has given me and my family, but it is my turn to move on.”
Sergeant Skinner, operations NCOIC with the 21st TSC’s training section, has served for 23 years and looks forward to this new life as well.
“I am very happy that I have a lot of things already taken care of. I’ve purchased a house and moved my family to Charleston, S.C.,” he said. “My wife is already employed, and I have job options. That gives me peace of mind; it’s a good feeling.”
For Sergeant Perez, NCOIC at the 21st TSC’s deployment processing center, the sentiment is bittersweet.
“It’s sad, and it’s exciting. After serving for 24 years, it’s a bit like leaving a child behind. You like to think you have done a good job and have accomplished something in those years. But it’s also a very good feeling to start another career, to start something new,” he said.
Major Woods has served in the command’s transformation office and looked back at his 20-year career with nostalgia.
“Right now, I am actually a little numb and don’t quite know what to feel yet – how it will be to no longer wear this uniform,” he said. “I do know that my wife, Rebecca, and my children are the heroes here. Their continued and faithful support has helped me immeasurably during my military journey.”
As far as being out of uniform is concerned, one of his fellow retirees sees at least one great advantage.
“I no longer have to worry about what I eat – no more weight standards,” Sergeant Rivera said.