Wright-Patterson salutes retirees on first Retiree Appreciation Day since 2019

With some 58,000 retirees from military service living in the Dayton area, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base leaders paused Friday to thank them.

The base’s 88th Air Base Wing — the landlord and host unit of one of the nation’s biggest Air Force bases — hosted its first Retiree Appreciation day in three years.

The pandemic forced the cancellation of the event in 2020 and last year. But Friday at the Hope Hotel and Conference Center, speakers from the 88th, the base Medical Center, the Dayton VA, the Greene County prosecutor’s office, the base’s legal office and others spoke with retirees about services and opportunities.

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Bill Woods, an Air Force retiree living “out in the country” in Clark County, said retiring near Wright-Patterson was an easy decision for him and his wife.

“Everything I want is here,” said Woods, a Boston native.

“The cost of living is cheaper here,” he said. “My house in Boston, compared to my house here, my house in Boston, if I had the same one, would be over $3 million.”

“I find, being in a military community, I have people with common interests,” he added.

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Col. Charles Barkhurst, vice-commander of the 88th Air Force Base Wing, agreed that the Wright-Patterson Medical Center — the second largest hospital in the Air Force — a commissary with competitive grocery prices, an exchange and other base amenities act as a magnet for military retirees.

He estimated that about 58,000 such retirees live in the area. The base itself has a working population of more than 31,000 people — uniformed active-duty, civilian employees and contractors, making it the largest single-site employer in Ohio.

“That’s a lot of retirees,” Barkhurst said in an interview. “We’re the only Air Force base in a four-state region. Yes, we have a lot of retirees come here and use the hospital, the commissary, the BX (base exchange) and a lot of other services.”

The theme Friday was financial and legal information, but medical information was on the agenda, as well.

Col. Dale Harrell, commander of the 88th Medical Group, told Hope Hotel listeners that last week the base received some 12,000 doses of the flu vaccine. He urged listeners to get that shot.

Flu “is just starting to catch hold in Ohio,” he said. “What happens is, the kids get it, and then we get it.”

One man in the audience praised the drive-through pharmacy service the Medical Center implemented during the pandemic.

“Those young Airmen ... were hustling,” he said. “Those live bodies brought the meds to my car.”

Harrell appreciated the comment. “You cannot beat that human-to-human interaction.”

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