Joint Base Charleston



By Maj. Jerry Fletcher | 628th Medical Group Diagnostics & Therapeutics Flight commander | September 11, 2013

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- For as long as I have worked as an Air Force pharmacist, I have enjoyed the pleasure of working with retired military volunteers and their spouses. The Military Treatment Facility pharmacies with the highest morale that I've worked at have also had the highest number of volunteers.

The fact is, most stateside MTF pharmacies have become very dependent on their volunteers to maintain the services the pharmacy provides. Through the years, many of our honored military retirees and their spouses have selflessly given their time as volunteers. Their continued service has provided more robust support to our troops and their efforts are truly a treasured force multiplier.

Our volunteers not only enrich us with the work they do, but also with their experience and the experiences they share with us. Many have volunteered in their sections for a number of years. In fact, I have worked with retirees who have worked in the pharmacy for more than 20 years ... longer than many active-duty careers. These volunteer veterans have seen the active-duty staff come and go, observed countless changes, and have seen the ideas that have worked, and those that did not. It always pays to listen to what these seasoned volunteers have to say.

Some of the things that have stuck with me the most through the years are the experiences retired volunteers have shared with me. At my first and second assignments, I had the honor of working with a couple of World War II B-17 pilots who bailed out of their B-17s over Nazi Germany and were taken as Prisoners of War. I remember the retired Navy chief petty officer who related the horrors he experienced as a medic in Vietnam.

And I'll never forget the time a retired World War II Navy hospital corpsman brought in some old film he had found in a trunk in his attic that he had forgotten. He picked up the developed photos on his way in to work. We gathered around as he opened the seal on the photo package. The Sailor had no idea what the photos were. Imagine our surprise to see good quality photos of the Japanese signing the treaty ending World War II on the USS Missouri. The veteran was happy to see the photos and to tell us about the event. Other than a slightly brownish appearance, the glossy photos were in very good condition and while I had seen photos of the treaty signing before, I had never seen photos from the vantage point we were looking at. It was like being there.

Another piece of history shared by the spouse of a deceased World War II pilot and former pharmacy volunteer was a "Short Snorter" her husband had kept. The Short Snorter had been signed by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle among others. These are just a few of the many examples of the heroes/volunteers I have had the honor of working with during my career. They enriched our lives by sharing their experiences with us.

I've sadly noticed that over the years, the number of retired military volunteers seems to have gotten smaller. I'm not sure why. Maybe the volunteer spirit was greater in past generations, maybe we do a poorer job of letting people know of the volunteer opportunities that exist, or maybe as the size of the military gets ever smaller it produces fewer retirees and therefore fewer retiree volunteers. Whatever the reason, we are slowly losing more than just members of a volunteer force. We are losing an enriching part of our identity and character as a military.

Volunteering is an active way to continue to support our troops while meeting other retirees in the local community. There are a number volunteer opportunities at Joint Base Charleston for anyone interested. Opportunities exist to volunteer for as little as two to four hours per week. Anyone interested in being a volunteer can contact the Retiree Activities Office at 963-2228 or the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 963-4406.
One last thought ... for those who do not know what a Short Snorter is, just ask the next World War II, Korean or Vietnam era pilot or air crewman you meet.

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