Fort Meade Public Affairs Office
Spotlight on the Fort Meade retiree population
More than 58,000 people live and work on Fort Meade, making the installation the largest single employer in the state and the second largest Army post by population in the continental U.S. What is not so well known is when the number of military retirees eligible for services the installation provides are added, that population swells to more than 140,000 people.
Retirees from every branch of service enter Fort Meade to shop at the Commissary and Post Exchange, pick up prescriptions or have medical appointments at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center or the Veterans Administration clinic. Retirees also participate in activities like bowling leagues, attend multidenominational church services, camp in the RV park and more. Some retirees choose to live in leased housing on Fort Meade.
To serve this population, Fort Meade holds an annual Retiree Appreciation Day, usually in the third week of October. Unfortunately, due to COVID, the RAD had to be canceled this year.
“We thought long and hard about how to proceed with the RAD this year,” said Gavin Johnson, Fort Meade Retirement Services Officer. “Our retiree community ranges from age 40 - 100, with 80 percent ranging in age from 60 and up. We realize how much our retirees look forward to this event, but we put their health and wellbeing first and decided to cancel the event this year.”
Retirees can still receive support virtually through the Fort Meade Military Personnel Division. Retirees can call 301-677-9600 or 9603, from Mon. thru Fri., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“The ID card section remains open to provide services to retirees for updating or issuing ID cards, “ said Johnson. “We limit our in-person functionality as must as possible due to COVID. We want to protect our customers but ensure retiree services don’t suffer through the process.”
According to Johnson, each year, on the event of Retiree Appreciation Day, the Retirement Services office issues a newsletter to keep retirees informed of events and places where they can obtain necessary services. This year’s newsletter can be found at https://home.army.mil/meade/index.php/about/Garrison/directorate-human-resources/military-personnel-division/sfl-rso
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Thanksgiving tradition canceled by COVID
For years, the Fort Meade dining facility, The Freedom Inn, was a favorite location for retirees, veterans and family members to enjoy an affordable Thanksgiving feast. Many made this buffet-style meal, which was served by commanders and senior enlisted officers, a family tradition. Fort Meade’s retiree population found the meal especially convenient and affordable, and looked forward to the ham, crab legs, turkey, dressing and all the fixings.
“We’re making some adjustments this year,” said Melba Taylor, Dining Facility contract manager. “Unfortunately, the civilian community of Fort Meade will not be able to join us.”
According to Taylor, the Freedom Inn will still have a Thanksgiving feast, but it will only be available to the installation’s active duty service member population in order to accommodate limited seating, social distancing and masking requirements.
Prior to the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, in addition to Active Duty Service members, civilian employees of Fort Meade, veterans and retirees could enjoy a buffet breakfast or lunch at the Freedom Inn. Since COVID, breakfast, lunch and dinner meals are prepared but the dining room has remained empty.
“We’ve been serving take out only since the end of March,” said Taylor. “For the holiday meal, we will offer both take out and dine in options to our active duty population.”
Taylor says, because of social distancing, they will only be able to serve about 40 percent of their usual holiday capacity. She says, it’s unfortunate that service members won’t be able to bring friends and family to the dining facility for the meal.
“We’re going to make it as special as possible for the service members,” said Taylor. “The menu will be what we usually serve for Thanksgiving. There just won’t be as much of it.”
Active duty service members can look forward to ham, turkey, shrimp cocktail, steak, crab legs, macaroni and cheese, dressing, candied yams and all the trimmings, plus cake and pie for desert.
“Any service member who comes in will be able to get a very hearty Thanksgiving meal,” said Taylor.
On Thanksgiving Day the Freedom in will still serve breakfast from 8 - 9:30 a.m. The Thanksgiving Feast will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The facility will open again for an evening meal which will be take out only, from 3 - 4:30 p.m. Taylor said.