By David Irvin, CNJ staff writer
Meredith Wavey Bender took great care not to tear the paper wrapped around each of her gifts as she opened them at her retirement ceremony Friday at Cannon Air Force Base.
After nearly 42 years of civil service at the air base in the 27th Medical Group, her actions are as deliberate and exact as a surgeon’s.
“I think I’ve achieved my maximum here,” Bender said. “I loved every single day of it.”
She spent every day of that career at Cannon Air Force Base, starting out as a clerk typist in September of 1963 and finishing this month as the chief performance improvement and patient safety/risk manager.
According to base officials, civil servants may draw retirement benefits after 20 years. Many stay through 30 years. But hardly any make it beyond 35.
Bender is only two weeks shy of the 42-year mark.
There was a pile of gifts for Bender at the ceremony including a crystal clock, crystal swan, crystal angel and crystal dining set with silver tray for display.
It was appropriate. Bender said she loves crystal.
Gifts also arrived from Luke and Shaw Air Force bases and letters from across the country. She received a folded American flag in a moving flag-folding ceremony.
Col. John Posner, commander of the 27th fighter wing, hugged Bender at the ceremony, and said, “That’s a hug that spent 41 years in the making.”
In her speech about Bender, medical group commander Col. Delores G. Forrest said she was flexible, determined never to fail, loyal, gentle and kind.
“She has a keen eye for details and she worked behind the scenes to ensure we passed every inspection with flying colors,” Forrest said.
Once, Bender rearranged her entire schedule to attend a strategic planning meeting, a move Forrest said showed she always put the mission first.
Another coworker wished her to “see and do with a freedom that blossoms in your hands.”
Bender said she intends to return to school to study interior design.
She received several distinctions in her career. According to her retirement program, she received the exemplary service award with two oak leaf clusters for sustained service to the United States Air Force. She was also recognized as the outstanding Air Force senior administrator in 1983 and she has been the Cannon Air Force Base civilian of the year.